Coronavirus Layoffs and Severance Packages
Coronavirus Mass Layoffs in California and Severance Packages
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area six counties (Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa) have just issued a shelter-in-place order, prohibiting all non-essential travel outside of the home. What will this mean for the economy, and Bay Area employment? Many economists are predicting massive business disruption, including layoffs and large scale reductions-in-force. This is a good time to remember that both federal and California law may provide protection for certain workers in these circumstances. For example, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires companies to provide 60 days-notice (or pay in lieu of notice) when conducting a mass layoff under certain conditions. Employees may also have certain rights to severance under existing company severance pay plans. And many companies offer severance pay to employees upon termination of employment in exchange for a release of claims.
What Should I Do if I was Laid Off Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic?
If you are a California employee affected by a mass layoff or other job termination action, it is a good idea to seek legal advice before signing any release of claims. Questions to ask include whether the notice provisions of the WARN Act have been satisfied, whether you have a right to severance under any existing plan, and whether you may have other claims that you would inadvertently release in connection with a severance pay agreement (and which might provide a basis for negotiating a better severance payment).