Protecting workers from surprise layoffs


By Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

Contributing Columnist

In Ohio, we’ve had too many cases of companies closing down and giving workers barely any notice that they’re losing their jobs.

Many workers find out with an email in their inboxes or a post on social media that they’ve lost their jobs and not to show up for work the next day. Workers deserve better than a last-minute email letting them know their livelihood has been taken away.

Of course, we are doing all we can to prevent layoffs all together. It’s why so much of my focus is on making more in America and stopping the corporate business model that scours the globe in search of lower and lower wages. But we know it’s going to take time to undo decades of bad trade and tax policy. And when closures happen, it should be on the company to give works fair notice.

That’s why I introduced the Fair Warning Act to hold employers accountable and give workers and communities the notice they need to better prepare for and recover from these layoffs.

More than three decades ago, our country passed the WARN Act, setting rules requiring notifications of layoffs and closures in some circumstances. But in too many cases, it doesn’t apply, or companies ignore the rules, and workers get left behind.

Our bill would close loopholes and expand the law to require WARN notices for a business closure affecting five employees, any layoffs affecting 10 more employees at one worksite, or 250 or more employees across multiple sites, and it would extend the notice period from 60 to 90 days. Two months is not enough time for workers and communities to prepare when your life is getting turned upside down.

The current rule also excludes part-time employees and remote workers; our bill fixes that. We know how many families rely on income from multiple part-time jobs, and if one of those jobs ends, they need time to plan how they are going to make up for that income.

And to make sure employers are held accountable, to the legislation would step up enforcement. Under the Fair Warning Act, if a company closes down and doesn’t give workers the required notice, they would be legally liable for an additional 30 days of back-pay and benefits for those workers they’ve abandoned. The Fair Warning Act also protects employees’ right to bring a class action lawsuit for WARN violations.

Finally, the Fair Warning Act requires DOL to create and make public a searchable database of all WARN notices. The public deserves to know when and where layoffs and business closures happen. No exceptions.

Our economy is always going to evolve and change. But as that happens, workers can’t just be a cost to be minimized. We cannot accept that the future of work means lower pay, less job security, and fewer workplace protections.

Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is a U.S. Senator for Ohio. He can be reached at 1-800-896-6446. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints nor the independent activities of the author.

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