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Senate Approves Cryan-Pou Toys ‘R’ Us Bill to Protect Workers’ Rights

Trenton – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Cryan and Senator Nellie Pou to provide additional protections for employees who would lose jobs and severance pay because of corporate bankruptcies and closures.

The bill, S-3170, would increase the pre-notification time and severance pay for business closings, mass layoffs and transfers in the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

“Companies have exploited bankruptcy laws to protect their profits while workers lose their jobs and severance pay,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union). “Employees shouldn’t be left in the dark as companies are pillaged for their resources after equity firms load them down with debt and the top officials walk away with bonuses. The law needs to be upgraded to better protect the rights of the workers.”

The legislators acted in response to the rash of business closings and bankruptcies where workers were left jobless and without severance compensation, including Toys R Us, which closed operations at its Wayne headquarters and Flanders distribution center, resulting in 2,028 lost jobs. In this and other cases, the bankrupt companies were purchased by private equity firms that imposed massive layoffs while top executives walked away with millions of dollars in bonuses.

The bill would increase the minimum number of days of notice from 60 to 90 that employers of 100 or more full time employees must give to employees when there is a mass layoff, plant closing or transfer that will result in 50 or more employees losing their jobs. The measure would also require severance pay equal to one week for each year of service, whether or not the employer provides required notice. The severance would be “earned in full” upon the termination of employment, according to the bill.

“In the event of corporate losses and bankruptcies, the first people to think of, the first people to protect, must be the employees,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic). “When Toys R Us went under, they left their employees out in the cold with next to no paycheck or lead time to prepare while the executives divvied up massive bonuses. This is unacceptable and the workers of New Jersey deserve better. They deserve the protections in this bill.”

The bill would also:

  • require an additional severance of four weeks of pay if the 90-day WARN Act notice requirement is not met by the employer;
  • include retail operations where employees are more decentralized across many smaller locations;
  • now extends to all employees instead of just full-time staff.

The Senate vote was 27-13.