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WARN Act Compliance: Recent Federal Cases, Remote Work, State Law Requirements, Notice Exceptions, Defenses

Special Considerations for Small Employers


Date: November 16, 2022

Time: 1:00PM - 2:30PM (EST)

Location: Webinar

This CLE webinar will advise employment counsel navigating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), related state law analogs, and workforce reductions. The panel will discuss recent federal court cases and their impact on how remote employees are governed under the WARN Act. The panel will also address the legal issues for smaller employers considering layoffs.


For the first time since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are implementing a new wave of layoffs, particularly in the tech world, and it is anticipated that there are more to come as recession worries loom. Employers must consider the notice obligations under the WARN Act and related state laws due to changes in employment status.

Employment counsel should be aware of recent federal decisions related to the WARN Act. Concerning remote workers, while the law states it applies explicitly to mass layoffs of employees at "a single site of employment," a Virginia federal court found that the site of employment for remote workers was the location "to which they are assigned as their home base, from which their work is assigned, or to which they report."

There appears to be a split in federal court cases regarding whether the COVID-19 pandemic is the type of natural disaster that exempts an employer from the law's notification requirements. The WARN Act also provides several employer defenses, including exceptions for employers who were hit with unforeseen business circumstances, companies that sought financing shortly before shutting down a plant, and a good faith defense often used to reduce or eliminate damages when liability is found.

Though the WARN Act applies to employers of 100 people or more, smaller employers should review their state's applicable laws to determine if they must comply. A small employer considering major layoffs should complete a disparate impact analysis on the affected parties to determine if there is potential liability under anti-discrimination laws.

Listen as our panel discusses WARN Act compliance, recent decisions, and what best practices a smaller employer should consider when evaluating a reduction in force.


  1. Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act
    1. Notice requirements
      1. Definitions
        1. Employer
      2. Exceptions
    2. Recent cases
      1. Remote workers
      2. COVID-19
    3. Small employers
      1. State law requirements
      2. Disparate impact analysis
    4. Other best practices


The panel will address these and other relevant topics:

  • What are the requirements under the WARN Act, and who is a qualifying employer?
  • How are remote, temporarily laid off employees, and independent contractors treated under the WARN Act?
  • What are defenses under the WARN Act available to employers?
  • Besides disparate impact analysis, how should a small employer evaluate a major layoff?

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Emma counsels clients on a wide variety of employment issues and litigates employment disputes before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. Her litigation practice includes restrictive covenant agreements; discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation claims; and wage and hour compliance.