by Jeff Nolan
The substantive notice requirements of Vermont’s new law requiring warnings before mass layoffs takes effect January 15, meaning the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) isn’t the only law requiring certain employers to notify employees of an impending plant closing or mass layoff.
The Vermont Notice of Potential Layoffs Act (NPLA) was signed into law in May 2014. It imposes layoff notice requirements on a broader range of employers than the WARN Act.
While the WARN Act generally requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide employees with notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs, the NPLA applies to Vermont employers that employ:
- 50 or more full-time employees;
- 50 or more part-time employees who each work at least 1,040 hours per year; or
- A combination of 50 or more full-time employees and part-time employees who each work at least 1,040 hours per year.
Unlike the WARN Act, the NPLA applies to governmental Vermont employers of the same size, including, for example, municipalities and school districts. The WARN Act does not apply to layoffs of regular federal, state, or local government employees.
The NPLA’s fundamental purpose is to require an employer that plans a closing or mass layoff to provide certain notices to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and the Vermont Department of Labor (VDOL) so the state can respond with information on potential support for the employer and the separated employees.
The NPLA requires a covered employer that will engage in a “business closing” or “mass layoff” to provide notice to the ACCD and the VDOL 45 days before the effective date of the closing or layoff. The notice must include the approximate number and job titles of affected employees, the anticipated date of the employment loss, the affected worksites, and other information the VDOL deems necessary for unemployment benefits processing and for accessing federal and state job-loss mitigation resources.
The employer also must provide 30 days’ notice to the affected employees, the local chief elected official or administrative officer of the municipality, and the employees’ bargaining agent, if applicable.
The NPLA contains several exceptions. For example, an employer is not required to comply with the notice requirement in Subsection 413 and may delay notification of a business closing or mass layoff to the VDOL if:
- The business closing or mass layoff is the result of a strike or lockout.
- The employer is actively attempting to secure capital or investments to avoid a closing or mass layoff, the capital or investments sought would enable the employer to avoid or postpone the business closing or mass layoff, and the employer reasonably and in good faith believes that giving the notice would preclude it from securing the needed capital or investment.
- The business closing or mass layoff is caused by business circumstances that are not reasonably foreseeable at the time the 45-day notice would be required.
- The business closing or mass layoff is due to a disaster beyond the employer’s control.
- The business closing or mass layoff is a result of the conclusion of seasonal employment or the completion of a particular project or undertaking.
- The affected employees are hired with the understanding that their employment is limited to the duration of the season, facility, project, or undertaking.
For more information on the layoff notice law, see the June 2014 issue of Vermont Employment Law Letter.