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Understanding Your Rights If You’re Laid Off

Layoffs have been on the news recently, especially in the California Bay Area. Major tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Amazon, and Salesforce have cut tens of thousands of jobs since the beginning of January, primarily consisting of Silicon Valley workers. 

While major layoffs appear to be mostly centered within the tech industry for the moment, these trends have a way of spreading. Even if you don’t work in tech, you could still be at risk of being named “redundant” if your employer downsizes. It’s more important than ever to understand your rights regarding layoffs so you can stand up for yourself if you are unfairly terminated. 

The Ongoing Trend of California Tech Layoffs

Despite record profits posted throughout the tech field, many employers are announcing layoffs. Why? Companies that provide reasons for these massive cuts point toward ongoing inflation and rumors of an oncoming recession to justify their decisions. These businesses claim they are preemptively cutting costs to make it through the presumed lean times to come. 

Analysts suggest that most of these layoffs aren’t occurring because companies need the money, though. Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer argues that these layoffs are being done just because other companies are doing the same thing in “copycat” behavior. They know they can do it, that it hasn’t harmed their competitors, and will make their profits higher in the short term, so they are making cuts just because they can. 

Unfortunately, this behavior may bring about the very thing the companies profess to fear: a recession. Over the past year, as many as 120,000 people have been laid off, particularly in high-paying industries like technology. This is increasing competition for the remaining jobs, allowing employers to pay them less. Between lowering pay rates and many people simply no longer having their high-paying jobs, massive layoff trends significantly reduce the number of people with disposable income. 

This can slow the rest of the economy as people are forced to cut back to necessities rather than circulate funds into other businesses. Layoffs in one industry can cause a domino effect as other companies are forced to cut costs because their customers can no longer afford to purchase their goods or services. 

What You Should Know About WARN Laws

State and federal legislators understand the negative impacts of major layoffs. This is why California has implemented the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. This law provides strict rules regarding which employers must give notice to employees before performing layoffs and when that notice must be given. 

California’s WARN Act is stricter than its federal equivalent, granting workers in the state greater protections. It applies to businesses with at least 75 full- or part-time employees who have worked at the company for at least six out of the last twelve months. It also applies to all state and state-sponsored organizations, regardless of the number of workers. Covered organizations must provide employees with 60 calendar days’ written notice before performing the following:

  • Terminating at least 50 employees over 30 days, no matter how many employees the company has
  • Closing any plant or location, regardless of how many workers this affects
  • Requiring any employee to relocate by more than 100 miles

If an employer does not provide 60 days’ notice, they can offer severance packages equivalent to the number of working days the employees will not receive. For example, Google recently laid off 12,000 employees, effective immediately. However, the employees were guaranteed pay through the 60-day notice period. Because they will still receive the compensation they would have earned during those two months, the workers’ right to notice was not violated. 

Note that these notice requirements don’t apply to seasonal workers or employees who are explicitly hired temporarily. In addition, organizations are not penalized for failing to provide notice if they must close a location due to a natural disaster or sudden, unexpected loss of business. Outside of these exceptions, failing to provide appropriate notice to employees is a WARN Act violation. 

Your Rights During California Layoffs

Understanding your rights during California layoffs is invaluable. The WARN Act was enacted to give you time to find a new job and avoid unnecessary time spent unemployed. If your employer doesn’t provide you fair notice, you have the right to take legal action. 

California law allows workers to pursue back pay for every day of notice they do not receive. For example, if a company notifies workers only 20 days before termination, the laid-off employees could demand back pay for their normal schedule during the remaining 40 days. 

Furthermore, employers must perform layoffs equitably. They must choose which workers to terminate based on business-related concerns like performance rather than age, gender, race, or other protected classes. WARN notices allow employees to spot if their employer is committing wrongful termination during layoffs.

If they do selectively terminate people from protected classes, that’s when a layoff becomes wrongful termination. For instance, Twitter is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly firing women at a significantly greater rate than men in the November cuts. In these cases, you may also pursue a wrongful termination claim for additional damages, such as the money you might have earned based on your performance if the company had laid off people fairly.

Experienced Legal Representation for Victims of California Tech Layoffs

The layoffs occurring throughout the California tech industry are alarming and harmful to many workers. Still, if you are laid off without appropriate notice, you may have grounds to take legal action. At Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP, we specialize in helping workers stand up for their rights. We can help you determine if you were unfairly laid off or wrongfully terminated by your employer. If so, we will help you pursue justice and fair compensation for your losses. Learn more by scheduling your consultation today.

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