Understanding the WARN Act

Feb 11, 2024
7 mins to read
Understanding the WARN Act

Discover WARN Act basics: Understand key requirements for workplace compliance in this concise guide.


With a recent cool in labour market demand, increased layoffs and high unemployment rates reading and understanding your rights as an employee has increasingly become vital. The WARN Act, for example, is a provision all employees should familiarize themselves with. In this blog, we will go over the meaning of the WARN Act, the history behind and a few resources you can use to get further acquainted with the policy. 

What is the WARN Act?

The WARN is a U.S. labour law that refers to the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The act was enacted in 1988 but was effected as of February 4, 1989. 

The policy dictated employers provide 60 calendar day notices in anticipation of massive layoffs and plant closures. 

It was designed to protect employees and their families from sudden economic destabilization, promote transparency and help ease the transition from one job to another. It further gives employees legal tools to combat unlawful layoffs and acts as a guaranteed form of accountability. 

History under the WARN Act 

Upon inception, the WARN Act faced challenges such as President Ronald Reagan’s refusal to sign the bill. However, it was eventually passed by a majority Democratic congress with enough Republican support to achieve the 66% requirement to overcome former President Ronald Reagan’s refusal. 

The WARN Act was formulated to prevent instances such as the 2001 incident that followed mass layoffs and plant closures.  The 2001 incident affected close to 660,000 employees subject to notice requirements. It is incidents such as these that show the importance of the country's labour laws and how they are formulated to guide and protect your integrity as a worker.  

The WARN Act, however, faced further scrutiny in 1993 and 2003 with the U.S Government Accountability Office finding some of the requirements under the WARN Act inapplicable. The review called for in-depth clarifications on thresholds, damages and limitations. 

Resources on the WARN Act

Find below some resources that allow you to get a better grasp on the WARN Act. 

Code of Federal Regulations

An in-depth, detailed explanation of the WARN Act as per the United States Department of Labour. This resource is well-informed and verified under the United States Department. For a deeper understanding of the WARN Act and its legalities use this source for a comprehensive breakdown.

United States Department of Labor

This resource offers an overview of frequently asked questions regarding the WARN Act. A key question they tackle is the impact COVID has had on layoffs and how these different circumstances should be tackled under the WARN Act.

Navigating the Federal WARN Act: A Comprehensive Guide for HR Managers

A comprehensive guide specifically written to educate employers on understanding the WARN Act and what it means for their cooperation. It offers well-outlined sub-topics making it an extremely easy read perfect for a quick read. Additionally briefly outlines the different requirements surrounding different states. 

WARN Act Basics

Another comprehensive article that offers a deep dive into the basics behind the WARN Act. 

Can Your Boss Lay You Off With No Warning?

A short guide outlining if you are eligible for notice under the WARN Act. 

WARN Act Requirements: A Guide for HR Professionals

An equally informative source that outlines the differences within states. The table of contents allows easy navigation making it an ideal site to use if you have a specific section on the WARN Act you would like to learn more about.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 Wikipedia

Although Wikipedia is at times known to be unreliable, the following article offers a great overview of all things related to the WARN Act. This is an especially good source to use to complement your research on the WARN Act.


Now that you have learnt a little about the WARN Act, take advantage of the resources outlined in this blog post to further your knowledge of your rights. Check out the WARN tracker for more insight on the latest layoff news. Remember knowledge is power!

Ruby Janira
Ruby Janira

Ruby is a Marketing and Content Intern at Litespace. She is eager to apply her background in communications to transform thoughts into words and ideas into engaging narratives.

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