House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), along with Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) today sent a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis requesting documents and communications related to the development of controversial guidance concerning sequestration and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
"The recent "guidance' issued by the Obama administration is a political document that underscores the legal uncertainty facing employers and leaves countless workers in the dark about whether they will lose their jobs," Chairman Kline said. "The president can end the debate over the WARN Act right now by providing real transparency to the sequestration process and working with Congress on responsible reforms that will help fix the nation's debt crisis. Until that time, the committee will conduct oversight of the administration's attempt to hide from workers the devastating consequences of sequestration."
The WARN Act requires employers with more than 100 employees to give affected workers 60 days' notice of mass layoffs or plant closings. Due to ongoing secrecy surrounding the administration's plan to implement sequestration, numerous federal contractors have stated their intent to begin issuing WARN Act notices days before the November elections.
On July 30, the Department of Labor's Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration released guidance that states the WARN Act does not require federal contractors affected by sequestration to provide notice. As a result, workers across the country may not be notified of potential job losses. Remarkably, the department's own regulatory policies confirm it does not have enforcement power over the WARN Act nor the authority to issue "advisory opinions' in specific cases.
Committee members are concerned the guidance is misleading and incomplete. As they note in the letter, "The department creates the false impression that the guidance confers blanket immunity from the WARN Act, when in reality a contractor's failure to issue 60-day notices regarding sequestration-caused layoffs could result in costly private litigation Enforcement of the WARN Act is the sole responsibility of the federal courts. Therefore, a contractor who does not issue 60-day notices regarding sequestration-caused layoffs could still be forced to defend him or herself in WARN Act litigation."