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California protects you from wrongful termination in a layoff

Like many employees, you might wonder exactly what would happen if your company were to experience significant losses that led to layoffs. For many Californians, that is not only a bad dream -- mass layoffs are very much a reality. Just like other employment situations, a mass layoff can be plagued with legal problems such as wrongful termination and related violations. The good news: You are protected with the Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

The WARN Act requires employers to provide workers with 60 days' notice if a mass layoff is impending. The notice must be in writing. Alternatively, the company can pay the employees for the 60-day period. The intent of WARN is to provide workers with the opportunity to either receive training or find a new position after they are collectively fired.

WARN applies to California businesses that are made up of at least 100 full-time employees. Businesses who employ at least 100 part-time and other full-time employees are also responsible under the act, so long as their worker pool reaches 4,000 hours per week. Although WARN is applicable in most situations, businesses do have a few exceptions. For example, WARN is not enforced if the business lays off workers because of a natural disaster. Also, the company may be shown leniency if the business closes due to reasonably unforeseen circumstances (someone's death, for example). Other special circumstances may also protect employers from giving 60 days' notice, depending on the nature of the situation.

Ultimately, your employer is required to give you as much possible notice before your layoff, or the company could be held liable for wrongful termination or other employment law violations. Companies do not have the right to discard their workforce at a whim. Employees whose companies have mistreated them during layoffs may have legal options to recover damages for wrongful termination.

Source: Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center, "The W.A.R.N. Act: Mass Layoffs or Business/Plant Closings," accessed Nov. 17, 2015

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