August 15, 2020

Volume X, Number 228

August 14, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

August 13, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

August 12, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

California Offers Relief from State WARN Act Requirements

As companies feel the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are faced with the need to rapidly close their doors or lay off workers. Under California law, covered employers who order a mass layoff or close a facility are required to provide at least 60 days’ notice to affected employees as well as to state and local officials. Failure to provide the 60 days’ notice can result in liability for back pay, benefits, and a penalty of $500 per day. 

Unlike the federal WARN Act, the California WARN Act does not provide any relief for employers that take these actions due to unforeseen business circumstances. But on March 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to provide some relief to employers during this unprecedented time. 

Under Executive Order N-31-20, the requirement for covered employers to provide 60 days’ notice before a mass layoff, relocation, or facility closing is suspended if the event is caused by COVID-19-related business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable as of the time that notice would have been required. Employers are still required to give written WARN notices as soon as is practicable, and the notices must briefly state the basis for reducing the notification period. Additionally, any WARN notices provided after March 17, 2020, must state: “If you have lost your job or been laid off temporarily, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI). More information on UI and other resources available for workers is available at”

The relief provided under Executive Order N-31-20 is retroactive to March 4, 2020, and will continue through “the end of this emergency.” By March 23, 2020, the Labor and Workforce Development Agency is required to provide guidance to the public regarding implementation of the executive order.

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 79


About this Author

John Kuenstler Employment Attorney Barnes & Thornburg

John dedicates his practice exclusively to the representation of employers in labor and employment and business matters. He counsels and represents a diverse client base on a national and regional basis in virtually all aspects of labor and employment law.

John’s experience includes the defense of single- and multi-plaintiff, collective and class action litigation pertaining to wrongful discharge, discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, Section 1981, FMLA, FLSA, ERISA, USERRA, WARN and OSHA claims before federal and state courts and administrative...

Scott R. Murphy, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Construction and Litigation Law Attorney

Scott R. Murphy is a partner in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, where he serves as vice chair of the firm’s Construction Law Practice Group. He is also a member of the firm’s Commercial Litigation practice group, where he concentrates his practice on business torts, contract disputes and securities fraud as well as shareholder oppression claims. A seasoned litigator, Mr. Murphy has experience in numerous forums, including state and federal courts, arbitration tribunals and appellate courts. His representative clients range from Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, and municipalities to individual business owners, shareholders and investors.

Mr. Murphy was named on the Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Stars list and has received recognition in Best Lawyers since 2013 for his work in commercial and construction litigation.

Mr. Murphy received his J.D. with honors in 2001 from the Florida State University College of Law, where he was a member of the Florida State Law Review. He is admitted to practice law in Michigan and Florida.


Caroline represents employers in a range of actions involving harassment, retaliation, discrimination, wrongful termination, and wage and hour claims, including class actions.

Beyond litigation and agency representation, Caroline counsels senior management on day-to-day human resources and employee relations issues, including wage and hour compliance, disciplinary and performance counseling, reasonable accommodation, termination decisions, internal complaints and investigations, and employee classifications. She also assists with reviews and updates to company handbooks, policies...