Houston oil field services industry took another hit as Schlumberger announced that it would be laying off a large number of workers. This announcement follows an announcement of layoffs in January by Halliburton and Baker Hughes that they planned to lay off hundreds of workers in the Houston area. Apache Corporation also announced that it would lay off more than 200 employees.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, 29 U.S.C. §2101 et. seq., a law which was intended to provide workers and their families with sufficient time to adjust to impending layoffs and to look for other employment. The WARN Act requires certain employers to provide workers 60 days notification in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs. While many of Houston’s larger employer have followed the law in announcing mass lay offs, many companies nationwide do not follow the legal requirements of giving workers propert notice in advance of lay offs. In the event an employer fails to give adequate layoff and subject to certain exceptions, employers are required to pay 60 days wages and benefits to each employee that was laid off.
How employers avoid the penalties of the WARN Act. Many sophisticated employers are aware that the WARN Act only applies to layoffs that involves 50 or more workers and that number of workers that were laid off were represent at least one-third of the work force. By simply staggering the lay offs in sequence as to avoid the 50 employee requirement or the 1/3 workforce ratio, many employers hope to avoid the reach of the WARN Act. This is one area where the service of an experience employment attorney is vital.