New Jersey Delays Expansive Amendments to State’s WARN Act and Excludes COVID-19 Layoffs from Coverage

Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law an amendment to the New Jersey Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act (“NJ WARN Act”) that delays earlier amendments that would have taken effect in July of this year, and excludes COVID-19 related layoffs from the requirements of the act.

Specifically, this new amendment makes the following significant changes:

  • The NJ WARN Act now excludes from the definition of a covered “mass layoff” a layoff made necessary because of a “natural disaster” or “national emergency.” Thus, the NJ WARN Act now expressly excludes mass layoffs due to COVID-19 from its requirements. Previously, the NJ WARN Act contained an exception only for a termination of operations resulting from a “natural disaster” or “national emergency.” Now, mass layoffs resulting from the same circumstances are also excluded. In addition, the new amendment is effective immediately and is retroactive to March 9, 2020, the date Governor Murphy declared a state of emergency in New Jersey.
  • The amendments to the NJ WARN Act which were passed in January 2020 and would have become effective on July 19, 2020 are now postponed to 90 days following the termination of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 103 declaring a New Jersey State of Emergency.

The now-delayed amendments to the NJ WARN Act will impose significant burdens on employers. Among other things, the amendments will broaden NJ WARN Act’s coverage to all employers with 100 or more employees, regardless of how many hours the employees work; extend the required notice from 60 to 90 days; aggregate the number of terminations across the state; lower the employee threshold to cover layoffs that result in the termination of 50 or more employees at, or reporting to, any establishment within the state; and require employers to pay severance pay to affected employees at a rate of one week’s pay for every year worked and require a penalty of four weeks’ pay if proper notice is not given.

New Jersey is not the only state to make WARN-related changes in light of COVID-19. As we previously reported, last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom suspended the state’s 60 day notice period and allowed businesses to assert an “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception to the state’s WARN Act for COVID-19 related mass layoffs, relocations or terminations.