Illegitimate RIFs, Mass Layoffs & Branch Closings
Helping NY Workers Wrongfully Laid Off or RIF’ed
Losing your job is never a welcome prospect, regardless of the economy. If you have been wrongfully affected by a reduction in force (RIF), mass layoff, or branch closing, you have rights.
At Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP, we are skilled in proving workplace discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination in RIFs, mass layoffs, and branch closings. Our New York City employment lawyers are well versed in state and federal labor laws, and we will use this knowledge to your advantage. No employer—no matter how rich and powerful—should be able to get away with violating workers’ rights.
What Is a Reduction in Force?
If there is a valid business reason for a company to reduce its staff, the company may legally do so. A reduction in force (RIF) is when a great number of employees are discharged in this way, without any possibility for them to return to the same company.
Although the concept of an RIF is proper, some employers use RIFs to cover up discrimination against protected employees.
What’s the Difference Between an RIF and a Mass Layoff?
Under federal law, a mass layoff is when at least 50 workers are laid off in 30 days’ time. Therefore, a mass layoff is like an RIF in that it results in mass job loss. The difference is that a mass layoff keeps the option for rehire on the table, while an RIF does not.
Although many people use the term “mass layoff” to refer to an RIF, it is very important to know the difference. Employees have different rights under mass layoffs and RIFs.
What Qualifies as Branch Closing?
Similar to mass layoffs, a branch closing must result in at least 50 jobs lost in 30 days’ time.
Those affected do not all have to be from the same physical office. Per federal law, a branch closing (or plant closing) may affect multiple offices or sites under the same company in a geographical location. After all, it is rare for one single office to have 50 workers on staff.
Know Your Rights After an RIF, Mass Layoff, and Branch Closing
Discrimination in Reductions in Force and Mass Layoffs
New York is an at-will employment state, which means that employers have the right to fire an employee for no real reason. For example, they could fire you for poor performance or a personal dislike. They are not, however, allowed to fire or lay off a person just because they belong to a protected group.
All too frequently, our lawyers are contacted by employees who were improperly included in a legitimately terminated group in a reduction, mass layoff, or branch closing. It is important to carefully consider those affected. Our team investigates and reviews RIF terminations to make certain that the employees were properly included within the RIF, that they were not terminated because of their age, race, national origin, disability, or gender.
By way of example, we have sometimes found that long-standing employees of protected status—such as older, minority, or female employees—are improperly incorporated as part of the group designated for termination. There are also situations in which the RIF may have a disproportionate effect on a protected class. This unfairly impacts protected employees as a group. Whether the employer intended such a result is usually irrelevant.
Retaliation in RIFs, Mass Layoffs, and Branch Closings
Similar to workplace discrimination, mass job loss may be used to cover up retaliation against one or more employees. If a group of employees who were laid off recently blew the whistle on their employer’s unlawful activity, there may be a case.
Workers’ Rights Under the Federal WARN Act
According to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, employers must give workers notice of a branch closing or mass layoff 60 days before it happens.
The WARN Act applies to employers with over 100 full-time employees. Those who have worked at a company for less than 6 months do not count toward this total.
When the WARN Act Doesn’t Apply
There are exceptions to the federal WARN Act:
- Faltering companies, such as if a company cannot give notice due to financial hardship
- Natural disasters, such as if a company must close a branch due to a natural disaster
- Unforeseeable circumstances, such as if the mass layoff is due to something no one could have predicted.
In these cases, an employer may not need to give 60-day notice.
About the New York WARN Act
The New York WARN Act provides extra protections to workers facing branch closings and mass layoffs. This act mandates that 90 days’ notice must be given if:
- A mass layoff will affect no less than 250 full-time employees. If the company is smaller, this number is reduced to 25 full-time employees, as long as that number is no less than one-third of the company's full-time staff.
- At least 25 full-time employees will be affected by branch closing.
- Employees will be affected by relocation, meaning the employer moved the branch 50 miles away or more.
Exceptions to the New York WARN Act
The NY WARN Act provides more protections to workers, but it also includes more exceptions for employers.
An employer may give shorter notice if a mass layoff or branch closing is the result of:
- Acts of terrorism
- Physical calamity (floods, fires, or natural disasters)
Experienced New York City Employment Lawyers
If you believe you were wrongfully laid off or RIF’ed, don’t hesitate to reach out to our attorneys. We help New Yorkers learn and exercise their legal rights—and we get results. Take advantage of our award-winning legal team’s 100+ years of combined experience. When you’re ready to act, we’re ready to take your call.
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