GOP lawmakers to contractors: Defy Labor Dept., warn employees of sequestration layoffs

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Republican lawmakers have taken issue with an Obama administration memorandum, arguing the Labor Department’s advisement to defense contractors not to warn employees of potential layoffs due to sequestration is a violation of federal law.

The memo, sent out last week, said the layoffs -- due to across-the-board cuts scheduled to take place Jan. 2, 2013,  -- are excepted by the Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification Act. The WARN Act requires large companies to provide notice to employees 60 days prior to mass layoffs.

“The WARN Act is designed to require employers to provide notice to those employees who are reasonably likely to lose their jobs, or suffer other serious employment consequences,” Jane Oates, Labor’s assistant secretary, wrote in the memo, “but not to those workers who suffer no such consequences or only have a speculative chance of suffering them.”

Republicans argued the guidance is simply campaign politics, Politico reported, as 60 days before the scheduled cuts would be Nov. 2, just four days before the presidential election.

The memo is “not worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, during an Armed Services Committee hearing last week.

The chairman of that committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said the advisement will not hold up in court.

“To think that one of the agencies of the Obama administration would give guidance not to follow the law of the land -- a judge would laugh at that,” McKeon said.

Democrats disagreed, saying the WARN Act language was clearly on their side.

“This is an important and correct interpretation of the law,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member. “There is no reason to needlessly alarm hundreds of thousands of workers when there is no way to know what will happen with sequestration.”

In defending their stance, Democrats and the Labor Department pointed to a part of the law that discourages “overbroad notice” and a provision that lists “unforeseeable business circumstances” as an exclusion to the WARN Act.

Lockheed Martin Corp., the nation’s largest defense contractor, had planned to send notices as required by the WARN Act to nearly all its 100,000 employees, although it would ultimately only lay off 10,000, according to Politico. It now is planning to review its options in light of the Labor memo.

Republicans from the Committee on Education and the Workforce have requested all “information, documents and communications” related to the guidance from the Labor Department. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.