On December 19, 2022, the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill that, if signed by Governor Phil Murphy, would amend the effective date of amendments to the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act (“NJ WARN”) that were originally passed in January of 2020. Those amendments were previously paused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and under that pause would take effect 90 days after Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 103 expired. Because Executive Order No. 103 remains in effect, without any indication of when it may expire, the New Jersey Legislature passed this bill to set an effective date of such NJ WARN amendments.
In January of 2020, as we have previously covered, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 3170, making drastic amendments to NJ WARN. These amendments to NJ WARN would:
- Reduce the trigger requirement to any layoff of 50 or more employees;
- Expand coverage beyond a single place of employment to all terminations made by a covered employer in the state of New Jersey;
- Expand coverage to all employers with 100 or more employees irrespective of how long those employees have been with the company, or how many hours those employees work weekly;
- Expand the notice period from 60 days to 90 days;
- Mandate severance pay to all terminated workers at a rate of one week for each year worked for the company, with an increase to four weeks if timely notice is not given; and
- Prohibit employees from waiving their rights to severance under NJ WARN without state or court approval.
In March 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order No. 103 declaring a state of emergency. Then, in April 2020, the New Jersey Legislature passed, and Governor Murphy signed additional amendments to NJ WARN. These amendments expressly excluded layoffs as a result of “natural disaster” or “national emergency,” including pandemics like COVID-19, from NJ WARN. Additionally, these amendments also delayed the effective date of the previous amendments until 90 days following the expiration of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 103.
Now, 32 months later, with no sign that Executive Order 103 will expire anytime soon, the New Jersey Legislature has moved to speed the implementation of the January 2020 amendments. Governor Murphy has not yet indicated if he intends to sign the bill, so it is unclear how soon employers will be forced to comply with the more burdensome requirements of the January 2020 amendments. However, because the amendments would take effect only 90 days after being signed into law, employers should be prepared for this change.
*Wolfram Ott is a law clerk in the Labor and Employment group and assisted with the drafting of this article.