WARN Act: Accepting severance means departure was voluntary, says Seventh Circuit
Employees who accepted severance packages didnt count toward the number of affected employees that would be entitled to 60 days notice of a plant closing or mass layoff under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, ruled the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The court found that the departures were voluntary, even though some employees had only a couple of days to weigh the severance offer. The court noted with approval that the offers were accurate, no managers pressured employees to sign, and employees had seven days to change their minds after signing (Ellis v. DHL Express, Inc., 7th Cir, Jan. 2011).
Tips: It is highly questionable whether the Ninth Circuit would agree with this courts employer-friendly approach. We recently reported on a surprising Ninth Circuit opinion that quitting after announcement of an impending plant closure doesnt count as a voluntary departure (Collins v. Gee West Seattle, 9th Cir, Jan. 2011). Therefore it may be wise for employers in the Ninth Circuits territory to try to give WARN notice even to employees who sign severance agreements in the face of an impending plant closure or mass layoff. For general information on the WARN Act, see our Legal Guide, At a Glance: WARN Act (5793).