Twitter on Friday, Nov. 4, laid off employees in departments across the company in a huge round of cutting costs a week after billionaire Elon Musk acquired the company. CNN confirmed Friday with California’s Employment Development Department that Twitter had not filed the legally required advanced notification to employees before a mass layoff – one affecting 50 or more employees.
Mass Layoffs at Twitter Raise Questions
The California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, also known as the WARN Act, requires that an employer with more than 100 employees must provide 60 days’ advanced notice before a mass layoff “affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment.” On Thursday night, several Twitter employees filed a class action lawsuit alleging Twitter violates the WARN Act because it did not provide them with the legally-required notification.
A number of Twitter employees began posting on the platform Thursday night and Friday morning, saying they had already been locked out of their company email accounts ahead of the planned layoff notification. CNN reports that some employees shared blue hearts and salute emojis, indicating they were out of the company.
One senior community manager who said he was laid off Friday told CNN he had lost access to Slack, email, and other internal systems around eight hours before receiving an email Friday morning officially notifying him he had been fired. He also added that the email did not provide any details about why he had been let go.
Musk has framed the layoffs as necessary for Twitter. He said has been experiencing revenue challenges even before he acquired it as advertisers rethink spending amid fears of a looming recession. While it is unclear how many Twitter employees have been laid off or will be laid off, there have been reports that the company could cut 25% to 50% of its staff as Musk streamlines operations. Twitter had about 7,500 workers before Musk’s $44-billion acquisition.
Understanding the WARN Act
California’s WARN Act is a regulation that requires employers to provide workers and local government officials with at least 60 days of notice before a mass layoff, plant closure or major relocation. Employers who fail to give such notification must provide their employees with back pay and benefits for the period of violation.
The WARN Act protects employees who are fired in connection with a mass layoff, which is defined as the layoff of 50 or more employees within a 30-day period. It also covers workers in the event of a plant closure or relocation of a substantial portion of business operations to a new location 100 or more miles away. These requirements apply only to California employers who have had at least 75 employees in the past 12 months.
Both hourly and salaried workers and their managers and supervisors are entitled to receive advance notice of a mass layoff or plant closure. Where a WARN Act notice is warranted, the written notice must be given to each representative of the affected employees or directly to each affected employee if there is no representative. The notice must also be given to the State dislocated worker unit and the chief elected official of the local government where the closing or layoff will occur.
While there is also a federal WARN Act, it must be noted that California’s WARN Act is stronger and provides better protections for workers. For example, the federal WARN Act applies only to employers with at least 100 employees (not including part-time workers). Also, to qualify as a “mass layoff” under federal law, a company must lay off at least 500 employees or at least 33% of employees with a minimum of 50 workers. This is why most California employees eligible for damages under the California WARN Act choose to sue in California Superior Court rather than in federal court.
What Are Your Rights If Your Employer Violates the WARN Act?
If you lost your job due to a mass layoff, plant closure or your company’s relocation and did not receive a 60-day prior notice and the WARN Act applies, you have the right to sue your employer for damages. The damages you can seek under the WARN Act differ from those typically sought in most California wrongful termination cases.
An employee whose employer violates the WARN Act will be eligible to receive back pay for the period of the violation at the average regular rate he or she received for the last three years of employment or their final pay rate – whichever is higher. Employees may also receive the value of any benefits they would have been entitled to during the violation, such as the cost of medical expenses incurred, which would have otherwise been covered under employer-provided health insurance.
WARN Act Class Action Lawsuits
During the pandemic, employers have faced a surge in class action lawsuits brought under the WARN Act as several businesses abruptly shut down or laid off many employees. According to Reuters, some companies that faced WARN Act lawsuits during the pandemic include Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz, restaurant chain Hooters and Florida hotel operator Rosen Hotels and Resorts. All settled WARN Act lawsuits. For example, Rosen settled claims by 3,600 workers for $2.3 million.
Losing a job in a time of skyrocketing rents, inflation, and a looming recession can devastate individuals and families. If you or a loved one has been affected by the Twitter mass layoffs or have recently lost your job in a mass layoff, plant closure or relocation without a WARN notice, you may be able to file or join a class action lawsuit. An experienced California class action lawyer can provide more information about pursuing your legal options.