Court upholds lower court ruling, awards over $200,000 to 90 workers
NINETY BOILERMAKERS EMPLOYED at the NASSCO shipyard in San Diego stand to be reimbursed $212,405 for back wages and will see lost benefits restored following a November 30 decision by a state court of appeals affirming a trial court’s ruling that the company violated California’s WARN Act.
WARN stands for Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification. The act seeks to protect workers from being laid off without advance warning so they can adjust for a loss of income and related disruptions.
The Boilermakers and several individual Local 1998 members sued NASSCO after the company laid off workers in March 2014 for three to five weeks without the 60-day notice required under the state law. In fact, workers were told of the immediate layoffs on the same day they showed up at the shipyard for their regular shifts. The workers found themselves suddenly without wages and also failed to earn vacation pay or service credit for pension benefits. And they initially were charged for their own health care obligations (although later reimbursed).
In affirming the trial court’s (Superior Court of San Diego County) decision, the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division rejected NASSCO’s attempt to tie provisions of the federal WARN law, enacted in 1988, to the state law requirements. The court wrote “…the California Legislature enacted its own version (the California WARN Act), believing the federal law was ineffective in various respects and seeking to [supplement] the law to provide stronger worker protections.”
Boilermakers’ Executive Director for Industrial Sector Operations Tyler Brown called the appeals court affirmation “an important judicial interpretation of the California WARN Act that will help ensure our Local 1998 members and other workers throughout the state are given fair notice before being laid off, so they can make important life decisions about paying their bills and taking care of their families.”
In addition to affirming back wages and restored benefits, the appeals court upheld the lower court ruling that NASSCO pay “interest, costs, and attorney fees.”
Supporting NASSCO as “friends of the court” petitioners were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and similar state-based organizations.