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WARN Law Causing Controversy

You hear a lot about layoffs these days. More than 200 New Process Gear in East Syracuse, 175 people at Super Steal in Schenectady and 25 people at New York Air Brake in Watertown. And workers in many cases heard about them well in advance. The federal WARN law says workers must get 60 days notice for big layoffs, with the law only applying to companies with 100 employees or more. State lawmakers didn’t think that went far enough, so, it was back in September when Governor Paterson and Labor Department Commissioner Patricia Smith, standing in front of Tech Valley Printing, a company that Smith said laid off 150 people and then let the Department of Labor know, unveiled New York’s own WARN law.

If you have 50 or more workers, you must give 90 days notice on layoffs of more than two dozen. And if you don’t, you face $500 a day fines.

“I anticipate a spike in closures in the month of January, because this law takes effect on February 1st,” said lawyer Mathew Tully.

Tully, of the Tully Rinckey Law Firm, says the law drives up the cost of doing business in New York and will hurt businesses the most that are already struggling to stay open.

“Business owners have been contacting us because if they announce the potential for layoffs on 90 days notice, their business is almost guaranteed to fail,” Tully said.

The Business Council of New York also opposes the state WARN law. A spokesperson told us, via email, that the federal law is working. The fines for not reporting the layoff only hurts the companies, their employees and the economy.


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