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In April, The Friendly’s Corporation Took Advantage Of A Loophole In The WARN Act To Abruptly Shutter 15 Upstate Locations, Leaving Hundreds Of New Yorkers Unemployed Overnight

Schumer Unveils New Legislation—The Fair Warning Act of 2019—To Close Loopholes In WARN Act, Ensure Hardworking Upstate Employees Aren’t Laid-Off Without Advance Notice

Schumer: Friendlier Labor Laws Will Order Up A Fairer Workplace & Avoid Unfriendly Firings

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled his plan to close loopholes in the WARN Act that permitted the Friendly’s Corporation to heartlessly shut down 15 Upstate locations overnight last April, and lay-off hundreds of employees without so much as a day’s notice.

Specifically, Schumer, joined by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown [D-OH], introduced the Fair Warning Act of 2019 to the Senate, to fortify the WARN Act and prevent hardworking employees from having their employment stripped away so callously. The legislation would reduce the circumstances under which employers are allowed to lay-off large numbers of employees without giving them advance notice, ensuring they have ample time to prepare for their future and take measures to protect their financial stability. Schumer said this swath of abrupt corporate-ordered closures demands a sufficient response from the federal government, and urged his colleagues in the Senate to pass the Fair Warning Act of 2019 as soon as possible.

“No matter how you look at it, the way the abrupt closures of Friendly’s restaurants went down across the state was anything but friendly to Upstate workers. The incidents, however, did reveal gaping loopholes in the WARN Act that allow companies to callously lay-off employees without so much as a day’s notice, and they need to be closed immediately,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today, joined by Senator Brown of Ohio, I’m proud to introduce the Fair Warning Act of 2019, which would fortify the WARN Act and prevent the abrupt, mass layoffs of the future. No Upstate employee should show up to their workplace in the morning, only to find that it had been shuttered overnight.”

According to widespread news reports, over the weekend of April 6-7, 2019 the Friendly’s Corporation abruptly and permanently shuttered 23 Friendly’s restaurants across the Northeastern United States. Upstate New York was the hardest hit area with 14 closures. Schumer explained that in many cases, employees at the various Upstate New York locations were completely unaware of the closures and still showed up for work the next day, only to be blindsided by the fact that they were out of a job. Schumer said that the hardworking employees at the 14 Upstate Friendly’s locations deserved advance notice of their termination, at the bare minimum, and called the company’s unexpected actions extremely alarming.

Locations of the 14 closed Upstate Friendly’s restaurants by region appear below:

Central New York:

  • Clay (Great Northern Mall, 4081 Route 31)
  • Dewitt (3275 Erie Boulevard E.)
  • Oswego (192-196 W. Bridge Street)
  • Syracuse (3701 James Street)

Rochester-Finger Lakes Region:

  • Gates (2 Spencerport Road)
  • Greece (3935 Dewey Avenue)
  • Greece (3081 West Ridge Road)

Western New York:

  • Amherst (4350 Maple Road)
  • Blasdell (3540 McKinley Parkway)
  • Jamestown (10 S. Main Street)
  • Williamsville (6651 Transit Road)

Southern Tier:

  • Binghamton (1148 Front Street)
  • Endicott (301 E. Main Street)
  • Oneonta (377 Main Street)

In 1988 Congress passed the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to give notice and protect the rights of workers and employees in the United States in the event of a large unemployment loss. The WARN Act mandated that employers give their employees 60 days advance notice of large-scale layoffs under certain circumstances. First, only organizations with 100 employees or more are required to comply with the WARN Act. Second, WARN Act notification is only necessary when 50 or more employees at an individual workplace are set to be terminated, or if 50 or more employees are impacted by a factory closing.

Schumer said that technically, the Friendly’s Corporation didn’t break existent WARN Act standards, as each of the shuttered locations didn’t cross the 50 employee threshold. So, to close this loophole that enables corporations, like Friendly’s, to abruptly close operations, Schumer and Brown introduced the Fair Warning Act of 2019. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Lower the WARN compliance threshold from 100 employees to 50 employees, and create a requirement that any company with $2 million in payroll must abide by the WARN Act
  • Define a site closing as a shutdown that results in an employment loss of 5 or more during a 30-day period
  • Define a mass layoff as a reduction of force 10 employees at a single site during a 90-day period or any layoff  that impacts 250 total employees within an organization, regardless of how many of the layoffs happen at an individual site
  • Eliminate the distinction between part time and full time employees under the WARN Act. Right now, only full time employees trigger WARN Act protections. The Fair Warning Act of 2019 would change that and ensure that state rapid response teams are better notified to connect with affected employees.
  • Create an enforcement mechanism which holds bad actors liable back pay and benefits for each calendar day of WARN violations.

Schumer argued that no hardworking resident of Upstate New York should suffer the same fate as the Friendly’s workers who showed up to their job in the morning, only to learn that the workplace had closed overnight. To ensure that such abrupt layoffs don’t happen again, Schumer urged his colleagues in Congress to pass the Fair Warning Act of 2019 without a moment’s waste.