On April 14, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law two amendments to the New Jersey WARN Act (the “NJ WARN Act” or the “Act”) that alleviate some of the burdens the Act and  certain pending amendments placed on New Jersey employers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

COVID-19 Mass Layoffs Excluded:  Unlike the federal WARN Act, which has exceptions to the 60-day notice requirement in the event of unforeseen business circumstances and natural disasters, the NJ WARN Act did not have an exception to the notice requirement for “mass layoffs” in the event of emergent circumstances.  This presented difficulties for New Jersey employers in light of the sudden and extreme impact COVID-19 had on their ability to conduct business because they were still required to provide 60 days’ notice before conducting a “mass layoff.”    Recognizing this obstacle, New Jersey amended the definition of “mass layoff” under the Act to exclude layoffs due to national emergencies, among other events (i.e., fire, flood, natural disaster, act of war, civil disorder or industrial sabotage, decertification from participation in federal Medicare or Medicaid programs).  As a result, mass layoffs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic do not trigger the notice requirements of the NJ WARN Act.  This amendment takes effect immediately and is retroactive to March 9, 2020 – the date Governor Murphy declared a state of emergency.

Pending Amendments Delayed Until After NJ State of Emergency Order is Lifted:  In January 2020, New Jersey amended its mini-WARN statute in a number of significant respects and imposed more onerous burdens on employers in terms of WARN compliance.  While we detailed each of those amendments in our January blog post, the most notable changes did the following:

  • Required employers to pay impacted employees severance of one week’s pay for each year of service;
  • Increased the notice period from 60 to 90 days;
  • Lowered the threshold for a “mass layoff” to 50 employees (even if they did not amount to 33% of the workforce); and
  • Expanded the definition of “establishment” to include a group of all of the employer’s locations in New Jersey.

Those amendments were set to go into effect on July 19, 2020.

In light of COVID-19, the April 14, 2020 amendments changed the effective date of the January 2020 amendments, from July 19, 2020 to 90 days after the termination of the Governor’s Executive Order.  This delay should provide employers with additional time and flexibility to make adjustments to their workforces as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

These recent amendments should provide some temporary relief to New Jersey employers who are navigating the COVID-19 crisis. We will continue to monitor and report on further developments to this law, including when the January 2020 amendments will become effective, and similar laws in other states.

Proskauer’s cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional Coronavirus Response Team is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns.  Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures, practical steps businesses can take and resources to help manage ongoing operations.

Photo of Evandro Gigante Evandro Gigante

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of…

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of race, gender, national origin, disability and religious discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, defamation and breach of contract. Evandro also counsels employers through reductions-in-force and advises clients on restrictive covenant issues, such as confidentiality, non-compete and non-solicit agreements.

With a focus on discrimination and harassment matters, Evandro has extensive experience representing clients before federal and state courts. He has tried cases in court and before arbitrators and routinely represents clients before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as state and local human rights commissions.

Photo of Noa Baddish Noa Baddish

Noa M. Baddish is a senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department. She is a member of the Sports, Employment Litigation & Arbitration, Class and Collective Action, Wage & Hour and Whistleblower & Retaliation Practice Groups.

Noa’s practice concentrates on all…

Noa M. Baddish is a senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department. She is a member of the Sports, Employment Litigation & Arbitration, Class and Collective Action, Wage & Hour and Whistleblower & Retaliation Practice Groups.

Noa’s practice concentrates on all aspects of labor and employment law. Her employment litigation practice in state and federal courts includes class and collective actions and defending claims of discrimination, harassment, breach of contract and violations of wage and hour laws. Noa represents Major League Baseball and its clubs in an ongoing litigation brought by current and former minor league players who allege minimum wage and overtime violations. In addition, Noa has represented clients in the media and entertainment and fashion industries in lawsuits brought by unpaid interns in wage and hour disputes.

Noa also provides significant assistance on counseling matters on a wide array of issues for clients in various industries, including, but not limited to, sports, law firms, financial institutions, media and fashion.

Noa has been recognized as a Rising Star by New York Super Lawyers since 2015. She has authored and contributed to several articles and newsletters on employment and labor topics, including “State Whistleblowing Laws Provide Whopping Verdicts,” New York Law Journal (January 2014). Noa is also a frequent contributor to the Firm’s Whistleblower Defense blog.

Previously served as Assistant General Counsel to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations, Noa defended the Mayor and City agencies against both employee grievances at arbitration and improper practice petitions before the Board of Collective Bargaining. Prior to that, she was a Law Clerk to Judge Ellen L. Koblitz of the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.

While in law school, Noa served on the Executive Board as notes and articles editor of the Fordham Urban Law Journal.

Photo of Austin McLeod Austin McLeod

Austin D. McLeod is a law clerk in the Labor & Employment Department.

Austin assists clients in a range of labor and employment matters. Prior to joining Proskauer, Austin interned at the PGA TOUR and worked as a litigation paralegal at a major…

Austin D. McLeod is a law clerk in the Labor & Employment Department.

Austin assists clients in a range of labor and employment matters. Prior to joining Proskauer, Austin interned at the PGA TOUR and worked as a litigation paralegal at a major financial services company.

During law school, Austin worked as a labor relations law clerk for the National Football League. He also served as a staff editor of the NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law and President of the Student Lawyer Athletic Program.