Workforce committee Republicans demand that Labor Secretary explain recent DOL guidance on WARN Act
In a letter sent to DOL Secretary Hilda L. Solis, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.), Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) demanded that Solis provide documents and communications related to the development of the DOL’s recent guidance regarding contractor duties in relation to the potential sequestration and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
The DOL ruling states that WARN Act notices, which generally must be sent no less than 60 days before a mass layoff or plant closing, do not apply in the case of a sequester because it remains uncertain whether the sequester will go into effect at the beginning of 2013. Under a budget deal reached last year, the sequester will go into effect if Congress is unable to agree on a long-term plan to address the federal budget deficit. Any sequester would impose severe cuts in funds for the Defense Department and civilian federal agencies.
According to the Republicans, however, the guidance is nothing more than “a political document that underscores the legal uncertainty facing employers and leaves countless workers in the dark about whether they will lose their jobs.” Kline said that the document request is necessary to prevent “the administration’s attempt to hide from workers the devastating consequences of sequestration.”
The Republicans expressed concern that the guidance is misleading and incomplete. They allege that the guidance suggested that it conferred “blanket immunity from the WARN Act.” The reality, according to the Republicans, is that individual employees could, in the event of layoffs caused by the sequestration, file private suits. The guidance, they note, fails to explain that the DOL has no enforcement role when it comes to WARN Act notices. Thus, the Republicans have asked for information regarding how the DOL developed and crafted the guidance and the legal basis for the conclusions contained in the guidance.
Source: WKL&B Editorial Staff.