Trone, D’s introduce bill to make businesses that close to give proper notice to workers

13 November 2023- U.S. Representatives David Trone, Emilia Sykes of Ohio, Nikki Budzinski of Illinois, and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced the bicameral Fair Warning Act of 2023, legislation to update the WARN Act and hold employers accountable while also giving workers and communities the notice they need to best prepare for and recover from employer decisions that cost them their jobs. 

In 2019, Verso Co. announced the abrupt closure of paper mill Luke Mill in Allegany County, which employed nearly 700 people and was one of the largest employers in the county at the time.

“When Verso abruptly closed Luke Mill a few years ago, they blindsided employees and sent a shock wave through the town of Luke and our entire state,” said Rep. Trone, a member of the Congressional Labor Caucus. “Workers built our country up to what it is today, and they deserve better than losing their jobs with what feels like no warning. I’m committed to working in Congress to hold companies accountable, requiring them to treat employees with the respect they’ve earned. I’m proud to work with Representatives Sykes and Budzinski on this legislation to do just that.” 

“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 Ohio workers get left behind,” said Sen. Brown. “That’s why we’re introducing the Fair Warning Act to hold employers accountable and give workers, families, and communities the notice they need to better prepare for and recover from these layoffs. We cannot accept that the future of work means lower pay, less job security, and fewer workplace protections.”

Too often, companies close down and barely give their workers or the broader community notice. Workers and their families deserve better than a last-minute email letting them know they’re losing their jobs. While the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, established in 1988, requires certain companies to provide full-time employees with WARN notices in some circumstances, in too many cases, existing law doesn’t apply, or companies fail to follow the rules, and workers get left behind. 

The Fair Warning Act of 2023 would update current law by:

  • Updating the statute so the requirements under the law apply to any business that employs 50 or more employees or has an annual payroll of $2 million;
  • Updating definitions to ensure the legislation also covers an employer’s affiliate if they violate the WARN Act;
  • Closing loopholes in notification requirements by expanding the cases where notification is required and including both full-time and part-time employees in thresholds;
  • Increasing the lead time for mass layoff or site closure notifications from 60 days’ notice to 90 days’ notice to provide workers, their families, and the community with advance notice;
  • Requiring the state to establish a Rapid Response committee and an individual to lead that committee within 20 days of a WARN notice being issued so that affected employees can quickly get the training and other support services they need to prepare for their job loss;
  • Strengthening enforcement provisions under the law to enhance compliance;
  • Protecting employees’ rights to bring suit if their employer violates their WARN Act rights; and
  • Requiring the Department of Labor to create and make public a searchable database of all WARN notices.

Read the full bill text here.