Rules complicated for layoff notices

CAN THEY DO THAT? / WORKPLACE ADVICE

July 13, 2005|By CARRIE MASON-DRAFFEN

Q: I recently was laid off by a service division of a major manufacturing company. In all, 107 people will lose their jobs. Half were let go by the end of the month; the rest were laid off within a month. Most of us were not given even one day's notice. Aren't we covered under the Warn Act?

A. The answer isn't straightforward. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires employers with 100 or more full-time employees to provide at least a 60-day notice of a plant closing or a mass layoff, defined as affecting at least 33 percent of the work force; at least 500 employees overall; or at least 50 employees at a single site. In lieu of the notice, the company can lay off the employees right away and pay them for the 60 days. However, the company might be exempted from providing a Warn notification if the layoffs were prompted by unforeseen circumstances, such as a natural disaster. By the way, it doesn't matter that the layoffs are staggered. The total number triggers the Warn notification. Employers who violate the act could be held liable for employees' back pay and benefits. You'd have to seek redress in federal court. Call the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration: 202-693-3519.

Q: We have a boss who constantly harasses the help about their appearance. He blames individuals for his mistakes, especially when he changes the direction of a project without telling the people involved. And his pettiness demoralizes everyone. What are our rights and how do we best handle this situation?

A. You'd have some legal recourse only if the tormentor singled you or others out for such things as race, gender, religion or age. That's not just bullying, but discrimination. But bullies are usually equal-opportunity aggressors, and your boss seems to fit the mode. Jay Carter, a psychologist and author of Nasty Bosses: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Stooping to Their Level (McGraw Hill, $8.95), says you have the right to ask your boss to stop, even though you are the subordinate. "As far as human beings go, you are equal," he said. So Carter suggests you respond calmly to your supervisor's tirades with: "I will submit to doing the work you require, but on the level of respect we are equal; so don't speak to me in that tone, and don't put me down and embarrass me." It will take real courage on your part, but you'll see a payoff. "The boss will not like that but will show more respect and look for easier prey," Carter said.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@tribune.com.

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