Partners Carrie Hoffman and Cliff Risman were quoted in the Nation’s Restaurant News article, “Layoffs could have legal implications for restaurants.”
Hoffman explained how the WARN Act also applies to smaller companies like restaurants. These so-called baby WARN Acts require not only employees to be alerted in advance of layoffs, but so too must their union representative, if there is one, the local chief elected official and the state department of labor as soon as practicable. Hoffman said the timing is vague, but restauranteurs should avoid delaying those notifications. “It is open to interpretation, but as you hem and haw for days and days on end, it becomes less defensible,” she said.
Hoffman also noted that if the different restaurants in the same group share staff, such as servers who work shifts at multiple restaurants, then the WARN Act can apply.
Risman told NRN that due to the lack of precedent for legal issues relating to the current coronavirus pandemic, “we are in uncharted territory.” He noted that there are questions relating to non-employment issues including supply contracts and events. If the coronavirus is determined by the legal system to be a force majeure or ‘act of God,’ like an earthquake, hurricane or other natural disaster, then suppliers may not be legally responsible for food that wasn’t delivered and party’s canceling their events might be able to get their deposits back, he said. “That issue ripples through everything in the hospitality industry.”