Senate votes to water down WARN

The New Hampshire Senate believes in the principle of fair warning when it comes to employment matters, but on Wednesday, the emphasis was on warning employers, not employees.The Senate passed Senate Bill 86, which would require the give employers a warning if they violate a labor law, as long as the company doesn’t intend to cause harm or if the violation poses a threat to public safety. The bill spells out what some of those exceptions are, so there will be no warning if an employer doesn’t pay a worker on time, or pay final wages, or comply with laws concerning hiring of illegal immigrants. But violation of the federal or state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, was not mentioned in the bill.Indeed, minutes after it passed SB 86, the Senate passed SB 121, which would amend the state WARN Act, which would mean that certain employers would no longer have to give any warning to its workers before shutting a facility down or laying off large numbers of workers.Under the federal WARN Act, those companies that employ more than 100 people are required to issue a warning before instituting a layoff, but two years ago the state Legislature passed a law lowering the threshold to 75 workers, as well as attempting to put some teeth into the law.SB 121 would bring that state WARN threshold back up to 100 employees, to confirm with the federal act, as well as the threshold in surrounding states. Sen. Matt Houde, D-Meriden, and Sen. Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord. spoke against the bill.”It’s a big mistake,” said Larson. “What does this do to employees who lose their jobs without warning?”The bill passed on a party-line vote, 19-5, with no Republicans opposing it. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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