23 October 2008

Federal WARN Protection in Layoffs

There's never a good time for a layoff. If business is good, a company doesn't need to reduce its workforce, at least not by that means. In predictable times, the workforce can be adjusted up (through recruiting) or down (through attrition) without putting employees through the trauma of layoffs.

We're in a different mode now.

  • Yahoo is laying off 10% of its workers.
  • Merck will cut 12% (and that's after earlier layoffs).
  • Micron Technology will cut its workforce by 15%.
  • eBay is planning to cut about 10%.
  • The real estate web site Zillow explained their 25% lay-off this way: This was an incredibly painful decision for me and the leadership team, but, in the end, we concluded that we had no choice but to securely batten down the hatches as we sail into a major economic storm. Despite having sizeable cash reserves, we deemed the responsible course was to meaningfully reduce expenses, so that Zillow emerges from the other side of the recession in a very strong position, even if the recession lasts many years.

If your company is big enough that its layoff makes the national news, it's also big enough to be covered by the federal WARN law, which assures that employees will have 60 days' warning of the layoff. WARN covers companies with 100 or more employees, and some states have similar laws that require notice in smaller companies, too.

On a personal note: As a leading boomer, Tom Bold is very lucky to have had only two layoffs in his career but he has witnessed a dozen or more because the semiconductor industry is prone to layoffs. One of Tom Bold's employers had an unusual P.R. gaffe surroundig a layoff a couple of years ago. The affected employees were notified that their last paycheck would reflect a deduction: the value of the video iPod that employees had the opportunity to purchase for $50 a few months earlier. In the company's 2008 layoff (which we experienced first hand) there was no mention of iPods. And its value was not deducted from Tom's severance check. Good!

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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