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Your Employee Rights: Understanding the WARN Act in California

Unemployment is a common fear for many employees, especially during times of economic uncertainty. If you live in California, you may be protected by a state law known as the WARN Act. This legislation is designed to ensure that employees are given sufficient notice when a company is planning a mass layoff, plant closure, or a relocation. In this article, we will delve deeper into the WARN Act in California, including its application, requirements, and the rights it provides to employees like you.

Applying the WARN Act

The California WARN Act, formally known as the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, applies to businesses with 75 or more employees. It is triggered in cases where a company plans to lay off at least 50 employees in a 30-day period due to a plant closure, relocation, or mass layoff. Retail and manufacturing establishments with 75 or more employees, regardless of location, are also covered by the WARN Act.

The Requirements

Under the WARN Act, covered employers are required to provide written notice to both affected employees and the California Employment Development Department (EDD) at least 60 days prior to the planned layoff or closure. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties for the employer, including back pay and benefits for employees.

The written notice should contain specific information, such as the reason for the layoff or closure, the expected date, the number of affected employees, and any relevant information about employee rights and benefits. Additionally, employers must also notify any applicable labor unions or employee representatives.

Your Rights as an Employee

As an employee protected by the WARN Act, you have certain rights that you should be aware of. Firstly, you have the right to receive written notice of a layoff or closure at least 60 days in advance. This notice gives you time to prepare for potential unemployment and seek alternative employment while you are still employed.

Secondly, under the WARN Act, employers are required to provide you with a severance package if you are laid off without the required notice. This package typically includes compensation based on your years of service with the company and benefits such as continued healthcare coverage.

Furthermore, the WARN Act also provides you with the opportunity to challenge your layoff or closure. If you believe your employer has violated the WARN Act, you have the right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. They will investigate your claim and, if found to be valid, may impose penalties on the employer.

Exceptions and Defenses

While the WARN Act provides significant protections for employees, there are some exceptions and defenses that employers can use. These include unforeseeable business circumstances and natural disasters, among others. However, employers must provide notice as soon as practicable in such cases.

It’s worth noting that the WARN Act does not cover certain types of employees, such as those employed on a temporary basis, independent contractors, or those who have worked for the company for less than 6 months. Additionally, companies facing bankruptcy may be exempt from providing notice if certain bankruptcy court requirements are met.


Understanding your employee rights is crucial, especially when it comes to protecting yourself during times of layoffs or plant closures. The WARN Act in California guarantees that employees like you are given proper notice and compensation in these situations. Remember, if you find yourself affected by a mass layoff, plant closure, or relocation, make sure to consult the WARN Act and seek advice from a legal professional to ensure your rights are upheld. Stay informed and stay protected.

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