Wyatt Employment Law Report


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Would the WARN Act Apply in the Event of a Federal Budget Sequestration?

By Edwin S. Hopson

On July 30, 2012, an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor issued an advisory and guidance to federal contractors concerning the applicability of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) to possible layoffs occasioned by federal government sequestration on January 2, 2013, under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, and the Budget Control Act of 2011, should the Congress and President not come to agreement on a federal budget.  That guidance was “no” — the WARN Act would not be triggered by such action and affected, covered federal contractors would not be in violation of the WARN Act for NOT providing 60 days’ notice of mass layoffs or a plant closing affecting at least 50 employees.

The issuance of this guidance has been criticized by the Republican House Education and Workforce Chairman, John Kline, and the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chairman, Tim Walberg, in a letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.  They argue that the Department of Labor’s guidance has no legal effect and may be misleading employers into not following the WARN Act’s requirements.

With the recent agreement on a short-term budget extension, this issue has now been pushed off for several months.

The Labor Department’s guidance can be found at: 

http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL/TEGL_3a_12.pdf

The Kline/Walberg letter may be found at:

http://edworkforce.house.gov/UploadedFiles/08-02-12_Letter_WARN_Act_Sequestration.pdf


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NPR Reports that House Seeks Major Cut in OSHA’s Current Budget

By Edwin S. Hopson

On March 1, 2011, National Public Radio reported on its website that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to cut about $99 million in federal spending in the current fiscal year from the budget for the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).  According to OSHA Administrator David Michaels, the proposed a 20% cut as applied to the remaining months of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, actually amounts to a 40% reduction in OSHA’s budget for the period covered.  Michael’s says this would have a devastating effect on his agency’s activities during the next 6-7 months.

House Republicans have claimed that OSHA’s recent stepped enforcement activities threaten jobs and focuses too much on “punishment [rather] than prevention.”  At a recent hearing on the issue, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, questioned the agency’s priorities.

NPR quotes OSHA Administrator Michaels as countering with:  “[w]e know that OSHA doesn’t kill jobs. It stops jobs from killing workers. When employers embrace safety, they actually save money.”

Peg Seminario, the safety and health director of the AFL-CIO, is also quoted by NPR: “[w]e now have a much bigger workforce than we had 40 years ago when OSHA was started.  But they would propose to slash the agency, slash enforcement, slash standards-setting, leaving the agency essentially crippled and unable to do its job to protect workers.”

The U.S. Senate now has to take up the House-passed cuts and, along with the President, has to come to some agreement with the House to avoid a government shutdown.