Over the summer, defense contractors have threatened to issue blanket WARN Act notices of potential layoffs to all civilian employees on Nov. 2. The threats are the result of massive across-the-board sequestration cuts to the federal budget that are scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013. Without a budget compromise in Congress, federal contractors anticipate significant layoffs resulting from the sequestration cuts.
In response the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a guidance letter stating that due to the contingent nature of the cuts, the unknown impact on particular federal contracts and contractors, and other contingencies, the layoffs are presently unforseeable. The Department of Labor further noted that blanket notices to all employees are not consistent with the purposes of the WARN Act, which seeks to inform those workers who are reasonably anticipated to be laid off and to provide them with an opportunity to seek other employment in advance of job loss.
Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.) has taken a lead in questioning the DOL and coming to the defense of existing WARN Acts requirements as applied to federal contractors. We would otherwise applaud such efforts had WARN Act reforms not stalled before the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee (upon which Sen. Enzi sits) due to opposition within his party. In light of his recent opinions however, we look forward to his strong support and leadership to strengthen existing WARN Act requirements as new bills come before his committee in the future.