Massachusetts WARN Act: Requirements, Coverage, and Compliance
October 17, 2023 by Rebecca Ahn
If you are planning to lay off employees in the state of Massachusetts, you will need to make sure that you comply with all regulations pertaining to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (commonly known as the WARN Act). This will ensure that your employees are treated fairly and that you are not penalized for your layoff or reduction in force (RIF) event.
To make sure that you are compliant with the Massachusetts WARN Act, you will need to understand three different areas of these laws:
- The federal WARN Act requirements
- The state-specific Massachusetts WARN Act requirements
- How to comply with the Massachusetts WARN Act
Before we get into our analysis for each of these areas, make sure to download our simple WARN Act checklist with the link below:
Federal WARN Act Requirements
The WARN Act has several regulations that shape who the law should be applied to. This includes the following stipulations:
- The WARN Act applies to organizations that have over 100 full-time employees.
- The WARN Act applies to publicly and privately held companies.
- The WARN Act applies to organizations that are for-profit or not-for-profit.
- A WARN notice must be given if there is a plant closing or a mass layoff.
The first three stipulations are relatively straightforward. If you are an organization that has less than 100 full-time employees (FTEs), you do not have to comply with the WARN Act. If you have over 100 full time employees, the WARN Act will apply to you regardless of whether your organization is public or private, and for-profit or not-for-profit.
The final stipulation can be a bit trickier, since it relies on understanding the federal definitions of a “plant closing” and “mass layoff.” We’ll go over what these definitions are and what this means in the state of Massachusetts in the next section.
So now let’s dive into how these WARN requirements apply at the state level for the Massachusetts WARN Act.
Does Massachusetts Have a State WARN Act?
All US states must abide by the federal WARN Act regulations explained above. In addition to that, some states do have more stringent regulations specific to companies or employees located in their state.
However, Massachusetts is among those states which do not have their own differing WARN Act regulations. This means that all employers conducting a mass layoff or plant closure in Massachusetts must still abide by the federal WARN Act regulations to be compliant.
What Is the WARN Act Layoff in Massachusetts?
As we mentioned earlier, the federal WARN Act relies on specific definitions set at the federal level. These same definitions apply to employers complying with the WARN Act in the state of Massachusetts.
Let’s review what constitutes a “mass layoff” at the federal level and, thus, also in the state of Massachusetts.
The federal WARN Act defines a mass layoff as “a reduction in force which results in an employment loss at the single site of employment during any 30-day period for (i) at least 33 percent of the employees (excluding any part-time employees), and at least 50 employees (excluding any part-time employees); or (ii) at least 500 employees (excluding any part-time employees).”
Essentially, this means any workforce reduction that will affect at least 50 employees and one-third of the worksite’s total workforce, or 500 or more employees at the single site of employment.
What Is the Plant Closing Law in Massachusetts?
Just as was the case with mass layoffs, the same definition of a “plant closing” set at the federal level also applies to employers complying with the WARN Act in Massachusetts.
The federal WARN Act defines a plant closing as “the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single site of employment, or one or more facilities or operating units within a single site of employment, if the shutdown results in an employment loss at the single site of employment during any 30-day period for 50 or more employees excluding any part-time employees.”
In other words, this means a worksite closing down for 30 or more days that will affect 50 or more employees.
Massachusetts WARN Act Examples
To help spell this out a bit further, here are a couple of examples of when the WARN Act might apply in the state of Massachusetts.
- A manufacturing company in Boston, Massachusetts has 75 employees. The organization is laying off over half of its employees due to the loss of a business contract.
Since the company has less than 100 employees, it does not have to give a WARN notice.
- A non-profit organization with over 500 employees will be closing down an office in Salem, resulting in 134 employees being permanently laid off.
Since the company has more than 100 employees, and the closing of that facility will affect more than 50 employees for more than 30 days, giving a WARN notice is required.
Now let’s dig into how Massachusetts companies should comply with the WARN Act if their reduction event qualifies.
Massachusetts WARN Act: How To Comply
To comply with the WARN Act in Massachusetts, you will need to send a WARN notice letter to your affected employees 60 days in advance of their last day with the organization. This is the same as stipulated at the federal level.
This notice can be sent through several different delivery methods, as long as it is given in writing. The US Department of Labor (DOL) states that any reasonable method of delivery is applicable.
However, the US DOL also clarifies that, “Use of preprinted notices that are regularly included in employees’ paychecks or pay envelopes are not acceptable and do not meet the WARN Act requirements.”
This means that if your organization regularly gives out notices about the workplace to your employees with their paychecks, then providing a WARN notice this way will not be sufficient. This is because your employees might not distinguish this WARN notice from the other notices they regularly receive through this delivery method.
Your organization must also provide a notice to your government about your reduction event. Similar to the notice given to your employees, this notice must also be delivered at least 60 days in advance.
According to the US Department of Labor, “Advance notice should be given to the State Rapid Response Dislocated Worker Unit as well as to the chief elected official of the local government where the closing or mass layoff is to occur.”
For information on who to notify in Massachusetts of your layoff event, visit the Mass.gov website.
State Laws Impacting Your Layoffs
As we explained above, Massachusetts does not stipulate any specific WARN laws other than the requirements set in the federal WARN Act. This means that if your organization and all of your impacted employees are located anywhere in Massachusetts, you would only need to comply with these federal regulations.
However, in today’s increasingly connected world, there is a chance that you have impacted employees and/or plant closures located across more than one state. If you plan to lay off employees in multiple states, it is crucial that you research the individual state laws for each location–even if the majority of your employees or your headquarters are located within Massachusetts.
In these cases, the smartest strategy is to identify the state with the most restrictive WARN laws where you have impacted employees, and then follow those regulations for all of your employees across all states.
For example, if your company is headquartered in Massachusetts with over 100 employees, and is conducting a mass layoff or plant closing as defined above, you would need to comply with federal WARN Act regulations.
Now, for example’s sake, let’s say that some of your impacted employees are located in New Mexico, California, or work remotely in New York. According to the Employment Law Handbook, New Mexico is similar to Massachusetts in that there are no state regulations that organizations need to follow besides those set in the federal WARN Act.
However, California and New York do have extra state regulations that must be complied with. So you would want to research the California and New York WARN regulations to see which are more stringent and apply those to all of your impacted employees.
Additionally, while there may not be any state regulations in Massachusetts to dictate how layoffs must be structured, it might be worthwhile to check whether your organization qualifies for any state programs designed to help organizations with reduction events.
Always consult with your legal counsel when preparing to conduct a layoff event or researching laws regarding layoffs in your area to see what local, state, and federal laws or programs may apply to your specific situation.
Massachusetts WARN Act: Final Takeaways
While the WARN Act may be simple enough to understand both in Massachusetts and at the federal level, it’s still important to stay informed on the most current regulations when your organization needs to comply.
This guide covered many of these specifics, but the law evolves yearly. So be sure to refer to the US Department of Labor and Mass.gov websites for the most comprehensive and up-to-date explanation of the law.
For information on the specific WARN Act requirements in other states that may apply to your organization, especially those that may go above and beyond the federal WARN regulations, see our similar WARN Act state guides for New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California.
It can also be extremely helpful to offer outplacement services to employees who are affected by a plant closing or mass layoff event in areas of Massachusetts such as Boston. These services can help support their transition and provide a solution for any issues that may arise.
Be sure to consult with your legal team and company stakeholders about what solutions might be right for your organization to help you navigate the complexities of your reduction event and ensure you are following all applicable local, state, and federal laws.
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