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ICYMI: Republicans Question Labor Department's 'Misleading' Guidance on Federal Contractors

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 presidential election.

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 and incomplete."

"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 jobs.”

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 of sequestration.”

As 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 election.

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