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Is an Offshore Rig a Single Site of Employment Under WARN?

A federal judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana recently issued an important ruling for oil field employers conducting layoffs. In Voisin v. Axxis Drilling, Inc. (October 21, 2015), the court held that for the purposes of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (WARN Act), each offshore rig is a single “site of employment.” Plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed multiple class actions alleging that a dispatch or administrative office from which work is assigned is a single site of employment for purposes of triggering the WARN Act. Judge Feldman’s ruling blocks that theory.

Employees who stop coming to work because business is closing are entitled to 60-day notice under the WARN Act.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act states that an employer cannot order a plant closing or mass layoff that will affect 50 or more employees without a 60-day written notice to each affected employee. An “affected employee” is someone who is expected to experience an employment loss as a result of the closure or layoff. For purposes of the WARN Act, an employment loss is “an employment termination, other than a discharge for cause, voluntary departure, or retirement. . . .” The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a group of employees who stopped reporting to work after the owner of the automobile franchise for whom they worked informed them that he would be “closing its doors” in two weeks did not fall within the “voluntary departure” exception to the WARN Act and, therefore, were not provided with the requisite 60-day notice of business closure.
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