20 CFR 639.9 - When may notice be given less than 60 days in advance?
Section 3(b) of WARN sets forth three conditions under which the notification period may be reduced to less than 60 days. The employer bears the burden of proof that conditions for the exceptions have been met. If one of the exceptions is applicable, the employer must give as much notice as is practicable to the union, non-represented employees, the State dislocated worker unit, and the unit of local government and this may, in some circumstances, be notice after the fact. The employer must, at the time notice actually is given, provide a brief statement of the reason for reducing the notice period, in addition to the other elements set out in § 639.7.
(a) The exception under section 3(b)(1) of WARN, termed “faltering company”, applies to plant closings but not to mass layoffs and should be narrowly construed. To qualify for reduced notice under this exception:
(1) An employer must have been actively seeking capital or business at the time that 60-day notice would have been required. That is, the employer must have been seeking financing or refinancing through the arrangement of loans, the issuance of stocks, bonds, or other methods of internally generated financing; or the employer must have been seeking additional money, credit, or business through any other commercially reasonable method. The employer must be able to identify specific actions taken to obtain capital or business.
(2) There must have been a realistic opportunity to obtain the financing or business sought.
(3) The financing or business sought must have been sufficient, if obtained, to have enabled the employer to avoid or postpone the shutdown. The employer must be able to objectively demonstrate that the amount of capital or the volume of new business sought would have enabled the employer to keep the facility, operating unit, or site open for a reasonable period of time.
(4) The employer reasonably and in good faith must have believed that giving the required notice would have precluded the employer from obtaining the needed capital or business. The employer must be able to objectively demonstrate that it reasonably thought that a potential customer or source of financing would have been unwilling to provide the new business or capital if notice were given, that is, if the employees, customers, or the public were aware that the facility, operating unit, or site might have to close. This condition may be satisfied if the employer can show that the financing or business source would not choose to do business with a troubled company or with a company whose workforce would be looking for other jobs. The actions of an employer relying on the “faltering company” exception will be viewed in a company-wide context. Thus, a company with access to capital markets or with cash reserves may not avail itself of this exception by looking solely at the financial condition of the facility, operating unit, or site to be closed.
(b) The “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception under section 3(b)(2)(A) of WARN applies to plant closings and mass layoffs caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time that 60-day notice would have been required.
(1) An important indicator of a business circumstance that is not reasonably foreseeable is that the circumstance is caused by some sudden, dramatic, and unexpected action or condition outside the employer's control. A principal client's sudden and unexpected termination of a major contract with the employer, a strike at a major supplier of the employer, and an unanticipated and dramatic major economic downturn might each be considered a business circumstance that is not reasonably foreseeable. A government ordered closing of an employment site that occurs without prior notice also may be an unforeseeable business circumstance.
(2) The test for determining when business circumstances are not reasonably foreseeable focuses on an employer's business judgment. The employer must exercise such commercially reasonable business judgment as would a similarly situated employer in predicting the demands of its particular market. The employer is not required, however, to accurately predict general economic conditions that also may affect demand for its products or services.
(c) The “natural disaster” exception in section 3(b)(2)(B) of WARN applies to plant closings and mass layoffs due to any form of a natural disaster.
(1) Floods, earthquakes, droughts, storms, tidal waves or tsunamis and similar effects of nature are natural disasters under this provision.
(2) To qualify for this exception, an employer must be able to demonstrate that its plant closing or mass layoff is a direct result of a natural disaster.
(3) While a disaster may preclude full or any advance notice, such notice as is practicable, containing as much of the information required in § 639.7 as is available in the circumstances of the disaster still must be given, whether in advance or after the fact of an employment loss caused by a natural disaster.
(4) Where a plant closing or mass layoff occurs as an indirect result of a natural disaster, the exception does not apply but the “unforeseeable business circumstance” exception described in paragraph (b) of this section may be applicable.