In January 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 3170, which amended and significantly expanded employer obligations under the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act (“NJ WARN”). In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the State delayed the amendments’ effective date until 90 days after the termination of the Governor’s Declaration of a State of Emergency related to COVID-19. While business has largely returned to normal across the State, there has been no indication from the Governor’s office as to when the State of Emergency will terminate. In response, New Jersey lawmakers passed Senate Bill 3162 in late 2022, seeking to move the NJ WARN Amendments forward despite the ongoing State of Emergency. On January 11, 2023, Governor Murphy signed the bill into law. As a result, the amended law goes into effect in 90 days – on April 11, 2023.
Among other changes to NJ WARN provisions, the amendments:
- Cover New Jersey employers with 100 employees, regardless of tenure or hours of work (previously, NJ WARN applied only to employers with 100 full time employees with at least six months of service);
- Mandate 90 days’ advance notice of a covered mass layoff or plant closure (up from 60 days’ notice);
- Require employers to pay discharged employees severance equal to one week of pay for each full year of employment (previously, severance was only required in the absence of adequate notice); and
- Require employers to pay impacted employees an additional four weeks of severance if employees receive less than 90 days’ notice.
Notably, notice obligations are triggered by a termination of 50 employees located anywhere in the state within a 30 day period (90 days in some circumstances). Consequently, under the amended law, terminations across the state should be aggregated to determine whether the 50 employee threshold is met.
Also of note is a lawsuit pending in New Jersey federal court contending that the severance provisions of the amended law are preempted by ERISA. No ruling on that point has yet been made.
Employers considering a plant closure or mass layoff where terminations from employment may occur on or after April 11, 2023 should be prepared to comply with the requirements of the amended law. Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment group continues to monitor developments with respect to this law and is available to help employers understand the relevant changes and plan for the future.