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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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