In what is an all-too-familiar tactic of the national office of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the organization has issued a "study" falsely claiming that legislation existing in particular states has a crippling impact on economic growth and job creation within that state. The new piece is titled "The Impact of State Employment Policies on Job Growth: A 50 State Review" and claims to rank states based on a "Employment Regulation Index". The index is compiled through negative scoring based on the existence of fair employment practices laws within a state. Additionally, if the laws have meaningful enforcement procedures to deter illegal conduct, this can lead to further negative scoring.
One factor used to determine the ERI is the presence of state WARN Act statutes. The presence of these mini-WARN Acts is cited as a "key aspect" of state employment polices that harm economic growth. Beyond the false premise of the report, the data surveyed is inaccurate and, at times, blatantly false. Particularly, the report includes the following states as having "WARN-type" requirements that exceed federal law: Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If it were true, this would be news to workers in each of these states, but it is not.
Michigan and Ohio have no WARN-type requirements and Connecticut and Pennsylvania's statutes do not require advance notice to workers when job losss occurs as the result of a a plant closing or mass layoff. In 2005, the Connecticut state legislature introduced WARN-type legislation, but the bill did not pass before the end of the legislative session. The state has a law that requires the continuance of group health insurance for 120 days following a plant closing, but this cannot fairly be claimed as WARN-type legislation. Michigan has a non-binding statute that asks employers to provide notice of job loss, but compliance is voluntary and the statute has no enforcement provisions. The Ohio legislature introduced a mini-WARN Act last year, but it did not pass. The state only has a law that requires an employer undertaking a large-scale layoff to notify the state unemployment insurance director three days prior, so that the agency can prepare for processing of a large number of anticipated claims. Pennsylvania also does not require advance notice of plant closings or mass layoffs beyond what is required by the federal WARN Act. The state legislature has considered mini-WARN Act legislation during several sessions, but no law has yet passed. The state does require limited notice to state regulators when a takeover bid is underway and, during "control share acquisitions", requires modest severance to long-term employees. These laws are of very limited application and neither can fairly be considered WARN-type legislation requiring advance notice to workers of impending layoffs.
These errors were found on a quick review of WARN-type legislation. One is left to wonder what additional errors would be found regarding the Chamber's claims concerning wage theft legislation, anti-discrimination laws, and other statutes that protect workers and ethical employers from the predatory practices of less humane and corrupt enterprises. The Chamber's reports appear to have been drafted to protect the latter as the expense of the former.
Too often however, the Chamber's reports contain similar embedded errors. An example is the Chamber's annnual Litigation Climate "study". States that allow severely injured persons access to the courts to recover tort damages to pay for necessary medical care, lost wages, and other losses are considered to hinder economic growth. Notably, in past years, the report has awarded varying scores regarding Michigan's punitive damages laws. However, Michigan law does not permit recovery of punitive damages in tort cases. While the Chamber's studies have been debunked by academics and pollsters, they continue to be cited by journalists and politicians who fail to check the facts underlying the opinions presented. And that may be the purpose of these "studies" after all - to shape public perception regardless of the facts. As a consequence, they should be seen for what they are - propoganda pieces to create false impressions to undermine the laws that provide economic stability and a level playing field for all.