What Notice Must an Employer Provide for Job Termination or Layoff?

Job Terminations Are Not All Covered by Employment Law

Layoffs and job terminations are never happy but deadlines for employers exist in only a few cases.
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Employers have a variety of responsibilities to their employees in a layoff or employment termination situation. Some are required by law and others are important to promote your employment brand as a brand of choice to your current and prospective employees. How you treat people really does matter in a layoff or employment termination situation.

But employment termination is not an area that the federal government legislates except in a few instances. Do you need to understand how much warning an employer needs to provide to an employee in a variety of termination scenarios? Read on for additional information.

Job Termination

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has no requirements for notice to an employee prior to the termination of his or her job. No matter the reason for the termination, the employer can ask the employee to work for several days, but it is more likely that the day of termination is the employee’s last day.

In certain cases, employers must give the workers advanced notice of mass layoffs or plant closure. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the WARN Act) provides specific information on advance notice, employer responsibility, and workers' rights during mass layoffs or plant closure.

Note that some states may have requirements for employers to notify employees prior to termination or lay-off. You need to stay in touch with your state department of labor.

To avoid lawsuits and to be fair to the employee and employer, if you fire an employee, make sure that your path to employment termination has been ethical, legal, and thoughtful. The ethical and proper paths, as well as the thoughtful and kind paths to employment termination, are covered in how to fire an employee in detail in these resources.

In an employee firing, it is normal for the employer to walk the employee out of the workplace after helping retrieve his or her belongings. If an employee does not want to return to their work area, the employer can make arrangements to meet the employee after work or on the weekend so they can pick up their belongings. Note that in the instance of immediate employment termination, the employee would receive no advance notice.

Employee Layoffs

In a layoff situation, in some cases, employers must give employees advanced notice of mass layoffs or plant closure. The WARN Act requires 60 days written notice of the intention to lay off more than 50 employees during any 30-day period as part of a plant closing.

Additionally, the WARN Act requires employers to give notice of any mass layoff, that does not result from a plant closing but will result in an employment loss of 500 or more employee jobs during any 30-day period. The Act also covers employment loss for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer's active workforce.

In a layoff situation that is not covered by the WARN Act, the employer is not required by federal law to give any notice. Situations vary. If the reason for the layoff is economic, employees will usually experience immediate employment termination.

In other circumstances such as the elimination of a department or function, employees may be asked to stay on for weeks, or even months, with the promise of bonuses and employment recommendations for an orderly shutdown or transfer of responsibilities to the employees who remain.

More About Layoffs

In all cases, please check with your state or governmental authorities at your equivalent to the U.S. Department of Labor. Notification rules may vary by state or jurisdiction.

In the case of layoffs, always work with an attorney who specializes in employment law from your region. Many countries worldwide have layoff and termination restrictions that are more severe than those in the US

Note, too, that some states may have requirements for employee notification prior to job termination or layoffs.

Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and ​employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.