Unscrupulous: Obama Administration Instructs Employers to Ignore Federal Layoff Warning Law Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, October 04 2012
In other words, your taxpayer dollars will pay for intentional violations of federal law at the behest of the Obama Administration in pursuit of its reelection effort.

Imagine for a moment the uproar if a Republican administration colluded with big businesses to disregard explicit federal layoff warning laws for political benefit. 

Four years into an Obama Administration notable for its brazen lawlessness, perhaps such malfeasance should no longer come as a shock.  But that is precisely what is taking place right now, with almost no alarm from the mainstream media. 

First, a bit of legal background. 

The “WARN Act” is one of those rare laws whose acronym actually represents its core function fairly.  It stands for the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which passed a quarter-century ago by a veto-proof Congressional majority.   The law requires large employers – those with 100 employees or more – to provide notice of upcoming layoffs or plant shutdowns at least 60 calendar days beforehand. 

The obvious purpose of the law is to provide employees and their families with warning of prospective loss of employment, in order to brace for the shock, adjust family finances, begin looking for alternative employment or pursue education for a different career entirely.  Unlike many other union-friendly federal labor laws, the statute covers a broader array of employee classifications – supervisors and managers on down to entry-level workers. 

Stiff penalties await employers who violate the law.  Specifically, every employee not provided sufficient advance layoff notice is entitled to back pay and benefits for each day notice was required but not provided.  Moreover, wronged employees can obtain relief through federal court, including class action lawsuits that no employer relishes, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. 

In a terrible employment market such as today’s, when finding replacement employment is even more difficult, the law’s protections become even more invaluable for people struggling to make ends meet and avoid catastrophe such as home foreclosure or insolvency. 

With that in mind, it becomes even more ironic and shameless that the Obama Administration chooses a time like this to disregard the law’s safeguards.  That’s especially true given its constant claim to represent the middle class against supposed plutocrat employers aligned against them.  Here’s what the Obama Labor Department claims on its website regarding the WARN Act: 

“The ability of workers to readjust and find new employment after they have lost their jobs is a major concern of the U.S. Department of Labor.  The Department is focusing its efforts to help workers find new jobs or access training opportunities to prepare for new jobs.” 

Well, not always, apparently.  Perhaps the website should add, “Unless such notice becomes politically perilous for President Obama’s reelection campaign.” 

To wit, on January 1, less than three months from today, the infamous sequestration measures and “fiscal cliff” created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to take effect.  That sequestration includes massive across-the-board cuts to our national defense budget, which in turn means that private defense industry employers face the likelihood of sudden funding stoppage and consequent mass layoffs.  As just one example, Lockheed-Martin announced that up to 100,000 employees are in jeopardy of sudden layoff, and Northrop-Grumman and EADS have reacted similarly. 

In other words, precisely the sort of job loss for which the WARN Act was created. 

Now note when a January 1 layoff would trigger the law’s 60-day warning:  early November.  Just before election day.  Also note the primarily affected swing states:  Virginia, in which the Pentagon and enormous portions of the defense industry are located, as well as Ohio and Florida. 

Lo and behold, the Obama Labor Department has shamelessly instructed affected defense employers that it need not comply with the law’s notice provisions.  In fact, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has asserted that it would be “inappropriate” for affected employers to send notices, based upon, “the lack of certainty about how the budget cuts will be implemented and the possibility that the sequester will be avoided before January.” 

Making matters even worse, it pledged to cover the costs for employers who violate the law at its instruction.  In other words, your taxpayer dollars will pay for intentional violations of federal law at the behest of the Obama Administration in pursuit of its reelection effort. 

So for all of its claims to represent working Americans – well, those that remain after four years of his disastrous economic policies – Obama casts even more people under his bus as soon as they became politically inconvenient, along with his “typical white” grandmother, his acknowledged mentor Reverend Jeremiah Wright, et al. 

Speaking of which, where is the usual anti-business vitriol from labor union leaders? 

The answer is obvious.  For Obama and his Big Labor enablers, nothing can stand in the way of partisan gain.  Not rank-and-file workers, not national defense, not even explicit federal law. 

Obama’s disastrous debate performance this week before the entire nation understandably leads the headlines.  This latest tawdry episode, however, should not be overlooked by Americans contemplating a four-year continuation of such lawlessness.