The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses with no clear end in sight. While the prospect of a functioning vaccine may have a while to go, a spike in Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act litigation may be on the horizon. Furloughs and workforce reductions have been prevalent since mid-March, leaving millions of employees without jobs or on extended leaves while they wait (and hope) to be recalled to work. While only about a dozen WARN Act lawsuits have been filed to date, as layoffs extend beyond six months, new workforce reductions occur, and more plaintiffs’ attorneys shift their attention to WARN Act claims, the remainder of 2020 may become a hurricane season of sorts as WARN Act litigation could flood the courts. And as the days and weeks go by, an employer’s ability to successfully assert the “unforeseeable business circumstances” defense to providing less than 60 days’ notice of a “mass layoff” or “plant closing” has diminished and will only become more challenging for employers to assert.
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