The California WARN Act requires employers conducting mass layoffs, relocations, or terminations under certain circumstances to provide at least 60 days' advance notice to affected employees and to the state and local government. Failure to provide notice can result in severe liability – up to 60 days of back pay plus benefits for all laid-off, relocated, or terminated employees, in addition to civil penalties. As business needs change rapidly with the spread of COVID-19, employers needing to drastically scale back their workforce have been in a bind over how to handle these requirements. Recognizing the impracticability of California WARN under these circumstances, Governor Gavin Newsome issued an executive order, which took retroactive effect beginning March 4, 2020, and suspends the 60-day advance notice requirement in situations where the mass layoff, relocation, or termination is directly attributable to COVID-19-related "business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable as of the time that the notice would have been required." Employers subject to the California WARN Act are still required to provide notices containing all information required by the California WARN Act as soon as practicable. Specifically, covered employers will be required to:
- Provide the written notices specified in California Labor Code section 1401(a)-(b);
- Provide employees with as much notice as is practicable, while providing a brief statement regarding the basis for reducing the notification period;
- Include the following statement: "If you have lost your job or been laid off temporarily, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI). More information on UI and other resources available for workers is available at labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019."