The Covid-19 pandemic is not a natural disaster that frees employers from complying with the Workers’ Adaptation and Retraining Act, the 1989 law that requires companies to give affected employees 60 days notice of a factory closure or mass layoff, a federal appellate court said. Wednesday.
Crew members of Houston-based US Well Services Inc., which provides fracking services, were told they were fired immediately in March 2020 due to “unpredictable business conditions” caused by a fall in oil prices and the pandemic, according to the verdict of 5: e U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans i Scott Easom; Adrian Howard; John Nau v. US Well Services Inc.
Crew members filed a class action lawsuit against the company in the U.S. District Court in Houston for violating the WARN Act by dismissing them without warning, arguing that COVID-19 was not a natural disaster and not a direct cause of their dismissal.
The company claimed that the pandemic was a natural disaster and was therefore exempt from the notification requirements of the WARN Act.
The district court ruled that covid-19 was a natural disaster but rejected claims for a summary judgment in the case because the minutes did not show whether covid-19 was “but for” the reason for the dismissals.
Referring to an earlier ruling, a panel of three judges ruled that the WARN Act, which was “adopted in response to the extensive labor migration that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s,” does not qualify as a natural disaster under the law’s natural disaster exemption. .
The ruling also stated that according to a regulation of the Ministry of Labor, in order to qualify for an exemption from natural disasters, an employer must be able to show that its closure of the factory or mass dismissal is “a direct result of a natural disaster.”
The panel changed the lower court and remanded the case for further processing.
Lawyers in the case did not respond to requests for comment.