« Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals posts four today | Main | Env't. - Agriculture Today interview with new IDEM head »

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit posts two today

Roquet, Nancy J. v. Arthur Andersen LLP (ND Ill.) [15 pp.]

Before RIPPLE, WOOD, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.
EVANS, Circuit Judge. This case involves the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2109, better known by its shortened name, the WARN Act. The Act became law in 1989, and its purpose is to soften the economic blow suffered by workers who unexpectedly face plant closings or mass layoffs. Among other things, the Act requires that companies subject to its reach (generally large employers) give employees 60 days notice in advance of any mass layoffs or plant closings. The notice gives affected workers a little time to adjust to a job loss, find new employment, or, if necessary, obtain retraining.

Our case, however, is not your typical WARN Act fare as it involves hot-button topics like “Enron,” “document shredding,” and “indictment.” And it concerns an exception to the WARN Act’s notification requirement: the Act’s 60- day-notice obligation is eliminated, or reduced to a shorter term, if a mass layoff or plant closing is “caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable as of the time that notice would have been required.” * * *

Andersen has appealed the district court’s entry of summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the question of whether its workforce reduction constituted a “mass layoff” under the Act. But because we agree with the court’s dismissal of the suit under the WARN Act’s “unforeseen business circumstances” exception, we need not address the contention. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

WOOD, Circuit Judge, dissenting. * * *

The majority worries that giving the required WARN Act notice might exacerbate problems for a floundering company. While this may be true, the fact is that Congress weighed the interests of companies and workers in the statute, and it drew the 60-day line we have. Companies can protect themselves to a certain degree in the wording of the notices they give. As I stated above, the company need not be able to identify each affected employee by name; a general notice, alerting the employees as a group to the possibility of a layoff, is what the statute requires. Finally, at least on the present facts, Andersen’s troubles were not exactly a state secret. There was nothing left to hide after March 14, when the indictment hit the front pages of the country’s newspapers. By March 1, it was reasonably foreseeable to the firm that it would need to reduce its staff drastically. For these reasons, I would reverse and remand for further proceedings. I respectfully dissent.

NLRB v. Curwood Incorporated (NLRB Board) [18 pp.]

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 9, 2005 02:34 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions