On April 16, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 93 into law, a rehiring and retention law which requires employers in certain industries to make written job offers to employees who were laid off because of the impact of COVID-19. The law takes immediate effect and will remain in effect until December 31, 2024. Previously, some California cities adopted their own versions of local ordinances providing for a right to be recalled, including Carlsbad, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pasadena, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara.
With mass layoffs commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers asked the Internal Revenue Service for advice on how to deal with the partial termination rule relating to employer contributions to their employees’ 401(k) workplace retirement accounts.
It’s an obscure issue, but it’s a big deal for the employees that it affects: It could mean thousands of dollars more credited to an employee’s 401(k) account. It’s also important that employers get it right. In a recent article by Forbes, McDermott Will & Emery partner Jeff Holdvogt advises that IRS auditors can catch this issue looking back at prior years.
“This is a complicated rule, and it’s not top of mind, so we could absolutely see employers realizing, ‘Hey, it turns out we incurred a partial termination. We have to go back and provide additional vesting,’” Holdvogt says.
One round of layoffs is bad enough for rank-and-file morale. Subsequent layoffs can be even tougher on remaining employees, who may mourn the loss of their colleagues and wonder if they will be next. Employers can take steps to limit the damage and avert potential liability problems before and during the layoff process. Open communications before and after layoffs, to the extent possible, can help workers come to terms with the layoffs.
Under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, employees who are 40 years old or older are guaranteed time to think about whether or not to sign a release—21 days if only one person is being laid off, 45 days if two or more are laid off. After signing, they have another seven days to revoke the acceptance of the agreement.
When the release is signed in exchange for a severance package, the separation agreement must list the job titles and ages of all employees in the organizational unit, showing which are being laid off and which are not, explained Neil Capobianco, a McDermott partner in New York City, in a recent article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Complying with the federal WARN Act, a layoff or shutdown notification law, and its state counterparts is more than just crunching numbers. In a recent Bloomberg Law article, McDermott Will & Emery’s Kate De La Cruz examines five “alarms” companies should consider to ensure compliance.