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WARN Act PA 2024: Requirements, Coverage, and Compliance

May 10, 2024 by Rebecca Ahn

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If you are planning to lay off employees in the state of Pennsylvania, 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). The WARN Act ensures 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 WARN Act in PA, you will need to understand three different areas of these laws:

  • The federal WARN Act requirements
  • The state-specific WARN Act PA requirements
  • How to comply with WARN Act PA notices

Before we get into our analysis for each of these areas, make sure to download our simple WARN Act checklist with the link below:

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What Is the Federal WARN Act?

The WARN Act has several regulations that shape who the law should be applied to in the US. 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.” Let’s dive into these federal definitions and how they apply at the state level for the WARN Act PA.

Does Pennsylvania Have the WARN Act?

The short answer is yes, the federal WARN Act applies in the state of Pennsylvania, as it does in all US states. Some states do have additional, more stringent regulations specific to companies or employees located in their state. However, Pennsylvania is among those which do not have their own differing state-level WARN regulations. This means that PA companies and/or employees who are part of a mass layoff or plant closure are still covered under the federal WARN Act and must follow all federal regulations to be compliant.

WARN Act PA Plant Closing Definition

According to the US Department of Labor (DOL), a “plant closing” is defined 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 full-time employees, not counting part-time employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or who work an average of less than 20 hours per week for that employer.

WARN Act PA Mass Layoff Definition

The federal WARN Act also 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 (not resulting from a plant closing) which will result in an employment loss during any 30 day period for either 500 or more employees at the employment site, or for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33 percent of the employer’s active workforce.

This also applies to “extended layoffs,” when the cumulative employment losses for two or more groups of workers–even if each individually falls below the minimum threshold for WARN notice–together reach that WARN threshold level during any 90-day period for either a plant closing or mass layoff.

WARN Act PA List of 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 Pennsylvania.

1. A manufacturing company in Philadelphia, PA has 75 employees. The organization is laying off over half of its employees due to the loss of a business contract.

Since this company has less than 100 employees, it does not have to give a WARN notice.

2. A non-profit organization with over 500 employees will be closing down an office in Pittsburgh, PA resulting in 134 employees being permanently laid off.

Since this 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 here.

Now let’s dig into how PA companies should comply with the WARN Act if their reduction event qualifies.

How to Comply with the WARN Act PA

To ensure you fully comply with the WARN Act in PA, 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.

When creating your WARN Act PA notice, make sure to include the following items:

  • Notify notice receivers of the upcoming reduction in force
  • Explain whether this layoff will be permanent or if the workers can expect to be called to work again
  • A time-frame of when layoffs will occur and when their position will be affected
  • Your organization’s policy on bumping rights
  • Severance benefits that your organization will provide
  • Who the employees should contact for further information at your organization (usually an HR representative)

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 DOL, “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 Pennsylvania of your layoff event, visit the PA Department of Labor & Industry (DLI).

Other State Laws Impacting Your Layoffs

Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not have any specific state-level laws about conducting layoffs other than the federal requirements in the WARN Act. This means that if your organization and all of your impacted employees are located anywhere in Pennsylvania, you would only need to comply with these federal WARN 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 PA.

In these cases, the smartest strategy is to identify the state with the most restrictive laws where you will be giving WARN notices, and then follow those regulations for all of your impacted employees across all states.

WARN Act PA Multi-State Example

For example, if your company is headquartered in Philadelphia, PA with 6,000 employees and needs to lay off 500 employees, you would need to comply with the federal WARN Act. Then you would need to find the location of the 500 employees that you are laying off.

Let’s say that 400 of those impacted employees are located in PA, 80 of them are located in New Mexico, and the rest are either in California or work remotely in New York. According to the Employment Law Handbook, New Mexico is similar to PA in that there are no state regulations for local organizations besides the federal WARN laws.

However, both 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.

WARN Act PA State Programs

In addition, while there might not be any state regulations in PA 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. You’ll also want to make sure you’re not confusing these WARN regulations with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Pennsylvania.

WARN Act PA: Final Takeaways

While the WARN Act may be simple enough to understand both in Pennsylvania 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 is constantly evolving year after year. So be sure to refer to the US Department of Labor and Pennsylvania DLI websites for the most comprehensive and up-to-date explanation of the law.

For information on the specific WARN 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 Pennsylvania such as Philadelphia. 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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Rebecca Ahn

Rebecca Ahn

Rebecca is a writer, editor, and business consultant with over 10 years of experience launching, managing, and coaching small to midsize companies on their business, marketing, and HR operations. She is a passionate people advocate who believes in building strong people, teams, and companies with empowering culture, content, and communication that facilitates meaningful results at every level and touchpoint. In her spare time, Rebecca is an avid traveler and nomad who also enjoys writing about travel safety and savvy. Learn more on her LinkedIn page.

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