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WARN Act and Oil Field Rightsizing: Court Finds Layoff Does Not Require Notice

In a recent case involving the layoff of employees assigned to land drilling rigs, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas limited the ability of plaintiffs to claim that multiple rigs collectively form a “single site of employment” under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act).

Firing replacement workers to allow striking employees to return is not a "mass layoff" under WARN Act.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires a 60-day notice to employees before a “mass layoff” can take place. A mass layoff is a reduction in force which is not the result of a plant closure, but which results in an employment loss of at least 50 full-time employees at a single site. While the WARN Act does not specifically define “workforce reduction,” federal courts have determined that an employee is part of such reduction when that employee is not replaced after layoff or discharge. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals relied on that interpretation of the term “workforce reduction” when it determined that 111 replacement workers - who ultimately were fired to allow a company’s original employees to return from strike - were not entitled to a 60-day mass layoff notice prior to their firings.
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