SpaceX, a space-exploration company based out of Hawthorne, California, was recently sued by a group of former employees for termination without proper notice. SpaceX is famous in California for revolutionizing privatized space flight by launching and designing rockets with the goal of eventually enabling humans to travel and live on other planets. SpaceX’s founder, Elon Musk, is a billionaire with many successful businesses including Tesla Motors.
The lawsuit was brought by former employees of SpaceX who claim that approximately 400 workers were terminated without proper notice under California state law. (Lee v. Space Exploration Technologies, No. BC552901; filed 8-4-14, Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County. For details of the case, search for the case number in the L.A. Superior Court’s Case Summary portal.) Under California law, employers with 75 or more workers that decide to lay off 50 or more employees must provide written notice 60 days before the layoffs are to take effect. The plaintiffs in this case have claimed that they are owed 60 days’ worth of back pay, in addition to $500 in civil fines for each day that the company violated the California laws governing layoffs.
Four days after the lawsuit was filed, another worker filed a separate lawsuit against SpaceX, claiming that the employer failed to provide adequate meal and rest breaks for employees and required employees to work unpaid time (“off the clock”). (Smith v. Space Exploration Technologies, No. BC554258; filed 8-8-14, Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County.)
The federal WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act (29 U.S.C. §2101 et seq.) applies to plant closings and mass layoffs, but California’s law has slightly differing requirements. The California Employment Development Department has put together a helpful side-by-side comparison of the two statutes. The California WARN Act (Lab. C. §§1400-1408) applies to job losses for at least 50 employees in a 30-day period, closing of an industrial or commercial facility with 75 or more employees, and the relocation of an industrial or commercial facility with 75 or more employees when the new location is 100 or more miles away. The required notice under both the federal WARN Act and California’s WARN Act is 60 days in advance of the proposed employment action. (29 U.S.C. §2102; Lab. Code §1401) Additionally, the notice must provide specific details about the planned layoffs including dates and information on employee rights.
For more on the federal WARN Act, check out O’Connor’s Federal Employment Codes Plus.