WARN Act, CARES Act, and Reductions in Force Litigation: Notice, Exceptions, Triggering Events, State Actions

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

This CLE course will provide counsel with advice on potential employer discrimination claims related to enforcement of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) and reduction in force and how some states have intervened to modify notice requirements while the CARES Act failed to address the issue. The panel will examine how to best protect businesses from future claims by instituting proper workforce management in response to COVID-19, and help define what notice is required at this time and what constitutes a triggering event.


The economic crisis sparked by COVID-19 has led to a historic number of layoffs and unemployment claims. In prior severe economic downturns, layoffs and increased unemployment have led to record numbers of reductions-in-force (RIF) lawsuits, allegations of violations of the WARN Act, and strengthening of discrimination and wage and hour laws.

While the CARES Act set out several relief provisions related to employers and employees, it is silent regarding the suspension of the WARN Act. With rampant unemployment and layoffs, employers are overwhelmed with issues related to RIFs, in dealing with employee issues, and in protecting the company from liability. Attorneys advising employers must fully understand the potential legal exposure for RIFS gone wrong to shield clients from lawsuits resulting from their conduct during a layoff.

Understanding the WARN Act requirements and what is required by employers to take advantage of CARES Act provisions is key to counseling employers. Further, employment litigators must devise practical strategies for defending employers against individual and class action lawsuits alleging unlawful conduct by the employer during the layoff process.

Listen as our panel of employment law attorneys reviews the intersection of the WARN Act, CARES Act, and potential RIF litigation and provides best practices for employers and their counsel on avoiding and defending lawsuits arising from layoffs.



  1. WARN Act
  2. CARES Act employer provisions
  3. Reduction in force: historical trends
  4. Best practices for avoiding lawsuits
    1. Document the business justifications for the reduction
    2. Determine whether proposed termination decisions have a disparate impact on legally-protected groups
    3. Determine whether the WARN Act applies
    4. Determine wage and hour implications
    5. Decide whether to seek release agreements from terminated employees
  5. Best practices for defending lawsuits
    1. Affirmative defenses
    2. Class certification strategies
    3. Discovery strategies
    4. Settlement strategies


The panel will review these and other vital questions:

  • How has the COVID-19 economic downturn impacted employee layoffs?
  • What does the CARES Act require related to employee termination?
  • How do the WARN Act and some state suspensions of the WARN Act impact potential RIF litigation?
  • What practice guidance can counsel offer employers in planning and implementing a RIF and avoid lawsuits after the layoffs?
  • What strategies are effective for defending litigation against employers arising from RIFS gone awry?


Lander, Esther
Esther G. Lander

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Ms. Lander’s practice focuses on complex employment discrimination suits, including claims of disparate impact...  |  Read More

Oleson, Nathan
Nathan J. Oleson

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Mr. Oleson focuses on complex employment litigation and counseling. He has extensive experience advising employers on...  |  Read More

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