Even before it takes effect, the new federal law requiring employers to give 60 days' notices before plant closings or major layoffs is causing plenty of confusion around the country.
So much confusion that it's hard to see how a flood of lawsuits can be avoided. Though the Department of Labor is issuing regulations to implement the plant closing law, the department does not have the last word on settling disputes. Here are just a few of the questions on which the courts may have to rule:- How specific does an employer have to be about the date of the plant closing or layoff? It isn't always easy to be specific 60 days in advance.
- What constitutes "adequate notice" of a closing or layoff? Must it be provided in writing? Or will verbal notification do?
- Who qualifies as an affected worker? Part-time workers and workers with less than 12 months on the job are not included when calculating the number of workers employed by a company. Even so, Congress clearly intended to include as many workers as possible among those entitled to notice. Where, exactly, does a firm draw the line?
- What does the new law mean when it refers to "regular rates of pay"? Companies are wondering whether overtime or bonuses must be included when and if firms provide employees with pay in lieu of advance notification.
- How should seasonal employment, which is common in agriculture and certain service industries, be handled?
As it now stands, the new law on plant closings represents the triumph of good intentions over common sense. Congress clearly needs to re-examine the law and do some fine-tuning.