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Layoff Laws in Illinois

Posted on May 25, 2020 in Employment Law

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country, many American employees are facing mass layoffs and downsizing as companies enter a difficult financial period. Since most Illinois workers are at-will employees, employers do have the ability to lay off or fire employees during harsh economic times.

However, federal law does require an employer to give a certain amount of notice prior to a large-scale layoff, and Illinois law affords additional state protections to employees. These regulations do not extend to all Illinois employers.

Layoff Laws in Illinois

Federal Protections Under the WARN Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is a federal statute that requires larger employers to give at least 60 days’ notice to its employees ahead of a mass layoff or plant closure. This rule also applies to staged layoffs or closures happening over a period of 90 days.

  • A mass layoff involves at least 500 or more full-time employees or at least 33% of the employer’s workforce (between 50 to 499 employees) at a single location losing their positions.
  • A plant closing involves the shutdown of a single employment site, facility, or operating unit, resulting in 50 or more full-time employees losing their positions within a 30-day period.

Employers who have at least 100 full-time employees or at least 100 employees who work 4,000 hours or more per week must adhere to WARN regulations. WARN defines full-time employees as individuals who work at least 20 hours per week and have worked for the company for at least half of the year prior to the WARN notice date.

Illinois Regulations for Laid-Off Workers

The state of Illinois extends the WARN Act to offer additional protections for smaller companies. Any company that employs at least 75 full-time employees or at least 75 employees who work 4,000 hours or more per week must adhere to WARN Act regulations.

Illinois law shares the same definition of plant closures as the WARN Act, but has a different standard for mass layoffs. In Illinois, a mass layoff occurs when at least 250 employees or at least 25 employees who comprise at least 33% of the workforce lose their positions. The 60 days’ advance notice still applies.

Exceptions to WARN Act Requirements

Employers do not have to provide the full 60 days’ notice under special circumstances. The WARN Act does not apply to temporary employees who know their employment was temporary, and Illinois does not require notice if the job losses occur due to war or physical calamity.

In addition, the WARN Act allows employers to give as much notice as they can in certain situations, even if it is less than 60 days. The employer must qualify for one of the following exemptions and provide a written statement to the federal government.

  • The circumstances leading to the layoff or closure were unforeseeable when the employer should have given the 60 days’ notice.
  • The company was struggling financially when the employer should have given the 60 days’ notice and the company was actively seeking means to avoid the plant closure. This exemption does not apply to layoffs.
  • The layoff or plant closing occurred due to a natural disaster.

Do You Need an Illinois Employment Attorney?

If your employer recently laid you off and you believe he or she did not comply with WARN requirements, speak to an Illinois employment attorney as soon as possible. You may be eligible for your missed pay and benefits by filing a claim against your former employer.

Contact your employment lawyer today to discuss your situation, determine whether or not the WARN Act applies to you, and strategize your next steps.