HR Groups Battle WARN Bill Revisions

November 12, 2007 ( - A measure passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives would extend to 90 days from the current 60 the advance warning of impending layoffs an employer is required to provide.

Representative George Miller (D-California) is the sponsor of H.R.3796, which was attached to a reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, according to a news report on Human Resource Executive Online.  

Miller’s bill would also expand the law to cover service-sector employees and would double the penalty for violations, requiring two-times back pay per day of violation up to 90 days. The revisions to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act passed by the House also clarify the definition of back pay so that employees can recover two days pay multiplied by the number of calendar days short of 90.

The original WARN Act provided that employees get 60 days of pay in compensation when an employer failed to give a pre-layoff notice.

The TAA bill now goes to the Senate where a companion bill sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, awaits. The Baucus bill has no layoff warning provisions, the news report said.

Miller and other supporters have positioned the proposed legislation as a Democratic response to the effects of unfair trade, but the bill requires notification regardless of the cause of the layoff.

Business groups continue to fight the Miller bill. According to the news report, the HR Policy Association and Society for Human Resource Management said the law “is already extremely complicated and unreasonably [requires employers] to forecast the employment effects of changing market conditions a full quarter in advance,” in a letter written to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (R-California), and the minority leader, Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio).

However, in a separate letter, the HR Policy Association supported the inclusion of service-sector employees, saying it provides “essential support to workers facing the challenge of adapting to a global economy and provides access to the education and job training tools they need to gain the skills necessary to quickly return to work.”