U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC), today issued a statement regarding the Department of Labor's guidance letter stating the statutory provisions of the WARN Act do not apply to sequestration pink slips:
"Corporate America should not be fooled by the Department of Labor's recent announcement about the WARN Act, telling employers that sequestration pink slips do not apply under this law and follow-through would be "inappropriate.' This is the President's Chicago-style politics at its best. I have heard from industries that the Obama Administration is leaning on them to delay layoffs until after the elections, as I mentioned on the Senate floorlast week. Now he is trying to intimidate these companies by way of the Department of Labor. Since many of these layoffs would take place in swing states five days before the Presidential election, the reasons are obvious.
"I have news for Corporate America -- sequestration is the current law of the land as is the WARN Act. The Department of Labor's guidance letter states that the WARN Act does not apply to workers who only have a "speculative' chance of losing their jobs. But the sequestration provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are not speculative; rather, they are law and will go into effect on Jan. 2. Simply because some in Congress have contemplated amending or eliminating the sequestration provisions, as I and many of my colleagues are doing, does not make the consequences of the law speculative. "Furthermore, the Department of Labor has previously admitted that they have no enforcement of the WARN Act. The Department's new guidelines should not be relied upon as legal authority and cannot relieve employers or protect them from action in court.
"The WARN Act states that any employer who orders a plant closing or mass layoff in violation of Section 3 shall be liable to each aggrieved employee who suffers an employment loss as a result of such closing or layoff.
"The Obama Administration is setting up employers to be sued and take on a huge financial burden when trial lawyers come out of the woodwork. I recommend companies take a hard look and err on the side of caution by letting their people know what could happen to their jobs in the near future. Is this the type of risk corporations want to take? If I were on the board of directors, I would fire the CEO who took this risk.
"What is most alarming is that the Obama Administration has made a conscience decision to not allow the Department of Defense to provide vital information on sequestration's implications. Because of politics, the Obama Administration is preventing companies from planning for their future, which means companies can't plan for their employees, and employees can't plan for their families. The President told the Pentagon not to plan for sequestration, yet he threatened to veto any changes made to the law that put sequestration into place. This is Obama's sequestration and he is perpetuating the unnecessary uncertainty. The President is withholding the truth from hard-working Americans and not taking critical action to stop this wrecking ball on our economy and national security."
Under The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) companies with more than 100 employees must give a 60 days notice of a masslayoff. The Senate Armed Services has received letters from eight defense companies saying they will have to layoff thousands of workers due to sequestration. Sequestration is projected to put more than 1 million Americans out of work.
Sen. Inhofe will be introducing a bill in the coming days as an alternative to sequestration. Sen. Inhofe also voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011 when it came before the Senate last year.