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.
Outstanding lawyer. Always available, conscientious and extremely knowledgeable. Excellent at following-up both with his clients and with opposing counsel. Regardless of the size of the case, Brian will put in the work and always treat his clients with the utmost professionalism and respect.- N.W.
I received the most compassionate and professional assistance from SP&H. I felt that Mr. Heller truly cared about me and the situation I was in. He was able to be my voice during a difficult time. He responded promptly to any correspondence, took the time to explain to me any questions or concerns, and helped ease any kind of stress that I had during a dispute with a previous employer. I highly recommend this firm. You are not just a number, they treat you like family. I trusted them entirely. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your devoted time and effort in my legal matter.- A.M.
Schwartz, Perry & Heller, LLP are the most skilled Lawyers for your discrimination case in the Tri-State area. Their integrity, personal attention, and knowledge are superior. They won my case and can win yours. Nothing beats the best.- D.K.
Davida Perry and Brian Heller are very caring, attentive and highly skilled negotiators who gave me expert representation to win my negotiation and achieve my goals.- D.New York, NY
Amazing team of Attorneys. From day 1 of the consultation to the very end I felt like the most important client to the firm. Brian Heller who I dealt with personally was amazing. Whether it was a call or email responses were very prompt and I was kept informed every step of the way. Even a few calls just to check in and say hello. Truly an incredible experience and I would recommend them to anyone seeking justice. If they take your case they will fight with you to the end. A+- D.W.
On short notice, Brian Heller reviewed contracts with complex international dimensions and found important discrepancies that I and other senior-level executives had missed completely. He was fast, thorough, and detail-oriented in providing pragmatic advice that enabled us to be sure that we were getting the fairest and best possible treatment under the law. We remain tremendously grateful for his support and look forward to working with him again.- Eric
After having a terrible experience at my last job, facing the anxiety again of having to rehash the treatment was daunting. Davida Perry not only did an amazing job calming down my nerves but she fought for me tooth and nail and did a great job securing what my past employer owed me. I won’t lie, there were moments I wanted to give up, but Davida was always there to help me stay focused and realize that I didn’t need to let them win. She was really great at countering all of their arguments, I pity anyone that would try to prove her wrong. She thought of everything we need and kept me constantly updated. Mostly what I appreciated about Davida was her kindness, and her genuine care for my mental health. She wanted to make sure I was taking care of myself during a very trying time. I cannot recommend this firm enough. They all clearly care about their clients and want to do best for you. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, and if you’re worried about the challenges that lie ahead be sure to team with Schwartz Perry & Heller, they will have your back and fight for justice.- T.B.
Brian was extremely helpful and responsive it helping me review my first ever separation agreement. He was able to explain the legalese in a way that allowed me to understand the risks I could be taking on down the road. After speaking to him, I was able to negotiate to include additional language in my agreement that will protect my future career. He was nothing but professional and incredibly responsive. I can't recommend him enough.- Former Client