United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division
Paul G. Beers, Glenn, Feldmann, Darby & Goodlatte, Roanoke, Virginia, and Hugh F. O'Donnell, Client Centered Legal Services of Southwest Virginia, Norton, Virginia, for Plaintiffs.
Todd A. Leeson, Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore, LLP, Roanoke, Virginia, for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
James P. Jones, United States District Judge.
In this class action lawsuit under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (" WARN" ) Act, 29 U.S.C. § § 2101-2109, the plaintiffs allege that they were terminated without cause as the result of mass layoffs or plant closings without 60 days written advanced notice. The plaintiffs seek to recover 60 days wages and benefits from the defendant, Virginia Fuel Corporation, for themselves and all similarly situated employees.
Currently before the court is the defendant's Motion to Strike Jury Demand. Because I am persuaded that neither the statutory text nor the Seventh Amendment provides a right to trial by jury in WARN Act cases, I will grant the defendant's motion.
The WARN Act prohibits certain employers from ordering a plant closing or mass layoff unless each employee who suffers an employment loss is provided 60 days' advance written notice of the mass layoff or plant closing. 29 U.S.C. § 2102; United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 751 v. Brown Grp., Inc., 517 U.S. 544, 545-46, 116 S.Ct. 1529, 134 L.Ed.2d 758 (1996). Employers who violate the Act are liable to each affected employee for the following:
(A) back pay for each day of violation at a rate of compensation not less than the higher of--
(i) the average regular rate received by such employee during the last 3 years of the employee's employment; or
(ii) the final regular rate received by such employee; and
(B) benefits under an employee benefit plan described in section 1002(3) of this title, including the cost of medical expenses incurred during the employment loss which would have been covered under an employee benefit plan if the employment loss had not occurred.
29 U.S.C. § 2104(a)(1). The employer is also subject to a civil penalty of not more than $500 per day of violation. Id. § 2104(a)(3). The employer is liable for the period of the violation, up to a maximum of 60 days, but no more than one-half the number of days an employee was employed by the employer. Id. § 2104(a)(1). Further, the employer's liability may be reduced by certain payments to employees for the period of violation, such as wages and healthcare premiums. Id. § 2104(a)(2).
The Act provides employers a defense to liability, stating that if " the act or omission that violated this chapter was in good faith and . . . the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that the act or omission was not a violation of this chapter the court may, in its discretion, reduce the amount of the ...