New Jersey Edges Closer to Implementing Landmark WARN Law

A bill advancing in the New Jersey Legislature would expedite the implementation of significant changes to the state’s WARN law. Back in January 2020, Governor Philip D. Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 3170, which radically expanded employers’ advance notice and severance pay obligations under the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act—otherwise known as NJ WARN.  Shortly thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold, which prompted an interest in delaying the implementation of the amendments to NJ WARN. Governor Murphy signed Senate Bill 2353, which delayed the effective date of the amendments to 90 days after the termination of Executive Order (EO) 103 (the Governor’s Declaration of a State of Emergency). With COVID-19 subsiding but no foreseeable termination in sight for EO 103, the New Jersey Legislature is working to uncouple the effective date of the 2020 NJ WARN amendments from EO 103. On October 3, 2022, lawmakers introduced S3162 in the New Jersey Senate.

Under the proposed legislation, the NJ WARN amendments would take effect 90 days after the enactment of the new law, regardless of whether the State of Emergency remains in effect. 

As Littler previously reported, the amendments would make several very substantial changes to NJ WARN:

  • Notice is triggered by a termination in a 30-day period (or sometimes in a 90-day period) of 50 or more employees located anywhere in the state (i.e., terminations are not counted separately at different sites of employment), and regardless of tenure or hours of work (i.e., there is no distinction between full-time and part-time employees);
  • The rule that a mass layoff is triggered only if at least 33% of the workforce is affected is eliminated.
  • The notice period for a mass layoff or plant closing is increased to 90 days (currently 60);
  • Severance pay is automatic, and the law requires employers to provide severance pay equal to one week for each year of service; and if the employer fails to give 90 days’ NJ WARN notice, the severance obligation is increased by four weeks of pay for each employee;
  • Employees may not waive their right to severance under NJ WARN without state or court approval; and
  • The law would apply to employers with at least 100 employees located anywhere in the United States, regardless of tenure or hours of work (so long as the employer has operated in New Jersey more than three years).

On December 1, 2022, S3162 was voted out of committee in the Senate by a 5-0 vote and has since moved to a Second Reading. It is eligible for posting to the Senate Floor for a vote, and the next voting session on the calendar is December 22.  The Assembly companion bill, A4768, was unanimously voted out of committee on December 8, 2022. It has not yet been announced whether this bill will also be sent directly to a Second Reading, but if so, it could be posted to the Assembly Floor for a vote as soon as December 15.

It remains unclear whether this legislation will get to Governor Murphy before the end of the calendar year. Littler will continue to monitor this legislative development.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.