Oilfield Workers Need to Quickly Familiarize Themselves With the WARN Act

February 18, 2015  |  Employment Law, WARN Act Violations

Falling oil prices may be great for motorists, but they’re lousy for oilfield workers and other energy industry employees. Prices have plummeted to levels not seen in six years, and many hardworking people are losing their jobs as a result. Even worse, many of them are being laid off without proper notice – a clear violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

If you work in the energy industry, you need to get familiar with the WARN Act as soon as possible. You may be able to obtain substantial compensation from your former employer if it is in violation of the Act.

The Basics

Anyone who has been laid off knows how devastating the experience can be. Bills pile up, money runs out, and finding a new job can be extremely difficult. Being laid off without notice makes a desperate situation even worse. That’s why the Act was created.

The WARN Act, which was passed into law in 1989, is designed to provide a buffer of sorts for people who are losing their jobs. Companies with 100 employees or more are required to provide a 60-day written notice if they plan a mass layoff or plant closure. The purpose of the Act is to give workers a paid adjustment period where they look for new jobs or seek training in another field. This not only helps the worker and their family, but is also reduces the stress on unemployment compensation programs at the state and federal level.

An employer covered by the Act must provide notice if the shutdown of an operating facility or unit will result in layoffs of 50-499 employees in up to a 90 day period – if that number of workers comprises at least one-third of the company’s total workforce at that facility. The employer also needs to provide notice if it will lay off 500 or more employees in up to a 90-day period regardless of the percentage of the workforce that comprises at the facility.

These just scratch the surface of the eligibility requirements that will determine whether or not you will be able to take legal action against your employer for a WARN Act violation. Far too many workers have not even heard of the Act so they don’t know their rights. We’ve seen an increasing number of instances where companies are taking advantage of this lack of knowledge for their own gain.

For example, employees are incorrectly informed by some employers that they have no notice rights since they are in an “at-will” or so-called “right to work” state. However, the WARN Act is a federal law which, in situations of mass layoffs or plant closings, trumps state laws.

Additionally, many oilfield employers, possibly recognizing they have violated the WARN Act, are providing laid-off employees with severance agreements that pay only a small fraction of the potentially recoverable damages under WARN while also requiring those employees to waive their WARN Act rights. As those agreements may be enforceable to waive your WARN Act and other employment law rights, it is important to visit with a lawyer to better know your position before signing away your rights.

Call a Lawyer

Don’t let the company you worked so hard for cheat you out of your rights. If the company is in violation of the Act, you may be able to obtain back pay, benefits and other compensation. At Baron & Budd we are very familiar with all aspects of the WARN Act, and we may be able to put that knowledge to use for your benefit.

If you have any reason to believe your former employer violated the Act when you were laid off or terminated, give us a call at 866-723-1890 or contact us online.

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