Toward an American Law of Redundancy
Comparative Labour and Social Security Law Review, vol. 2, 16 (2017)
9 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 24, 2017
Unlike other Western countries, the U.S. lacks a “law of layoffs” – a coherent set of doctrines applicable to workers terminated for economic reasons. This essay, written for the University of Bourdeaux’s Comparative Labour & Social Security Law Review’s symposium on redundancy, considers this absence from an historical perspective. It argues that contemporary wrongful discharge law is rooted in the stable employment practices of the post-war era, during which the risk of precipitous termination was equated with hostile employer motive. In a globalized world, in which life-cycle employment has been discarded, such concerns are not nearly as pressing as those resulting from widespread economic dislocation. Yet American employment law has yet to evolve to reflect this change. The essay urges lawmakers to capitalize on President Donald Trump’s rhetorical position on preserving American jobs to develop a realistic set of policies supporting economically terminated workers. A first step would be revamping the federal Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to expand coverage, narrow exceptions, and provide severance as an alternative to notice in situations where workers are fired through no fault of their own.
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