WASHINGTON, D.C. | August 3, 2012
How did you come up with that one?
House Republicans want to know how and why President
Obama's Labor Department decided that businesses do not need to give federal
contractors 60 days' notice of the mass layoffs that are set to happen on Jan.
2 -- unless Congress does something to stop the automatic budget cuts
(sequestration) that will take effect on that date.
On Thursday, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the
House Education and Workforce Committee, along with Reps. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.)
and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) sent a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, requesting
information “related to the development of controversial guidance” concerning
sequestration and advance notice of impending layoffs.
Federal law -- the WARN Act -- requires businesses with
more than 100 employees to give employees 60 days' notice of mass layoffs or
plant closings. That means notices for mass layoffs on Jan. 2 would have to go
out no later than Nov. 2 -- which is just four days before the Nov. 6
On July 30, the Labor Department issued "guidance,"
stating that federal contractors affected by sequestration do not need to
provide 60 days' advance notice of mass layoffs. Doing so "would be
inconsistent with the purpose of the WARN Act," the guidance said.
In their letter to Solis, Reps. Kline, Walberg and Roe called the guidance "misleading
"In short, the department creates the false
impression that the guidance confers blanket immunity from the WARN Act, when
in reality a contractor's failure to issue 60-day notices regarding
sequestration-caused layoffs could result in costly private litigation."
The lawmakers called it “disconcerting" that the
Labor Department's guidance fails to note that the federal government
"plays no role in the WARN Act's enforcement." The Republicans noted
that enforcement of the WARN Act is the sole responsibility of the federal
courts. So businesses could still be sued and penalized, regardless of the
advice dispensed by the Labor Department.
The lawmakers "respectfully" requested
"information, documents and communications related to the guidance."
Rep. Kline described the Labor Department’s guidance as
"a political document" that creates uncertainty for employers -- and
"leaves countless workers in the dark about whether they will lose their
In its guidance, the Labor Department said that
"efforts are being made to avoid sequestration," making its
occurrence "not necessarily foreseeable."
But as “The Hill” newspaper reported
on Friday, there are “increased fears in Washington that Congress might decide
not to act to prevent the nation from going over the so-called fiscal cliff.”
Some Republicans have complained that President Obama,
frequently on the campaign trail, is providing no leadership on efforts
to avert sequestration.
Said Kline: "The president can end the debate over
the WARN Act right now by providing real transparency to the sequestration
process and working with Congress on responsible reforms that will help fix the
nation’s debt crisis. Until that time, the committee will conduct oversight of
the administration’s attempt to hide from workers the devastating consequences
As CNSNews.com reported on Tuesday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the only reason the
Labor Department issued guidance on the WARN Act is because President Obama
"doesn't really want all these pink slips going out five days before the
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