Leeper v. Hamilton County Coal, LLC, No. 19-1109 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Hamilton operates a coal mine near Dahlgren, Illinois. On February 5, 2016, Leeper and 157 other full-time employees received a hand-delivered notice on Hamilton letterhead, stating that Hamilton was placing them “on temporary layoff for the period commencing on February 6, and ending on August 1, 2016.” The notice stated: “On August 1, 2016, you may return to your at-will employment with Hamilton” and explained that “[a] temporary layoff is treated as a termination of employment for purposes of wages and benefits.” Not long after receiving the notice, some mine workers began returning to work. Of the 158 notice recipients, 56 resumed their employment with full pay within six months. Leeper, a full-time Hamilton worker, filed a class action under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), which requires employers to give affected employees 60 days’ notice before imposing a “mass layoff.” 29 U.S.C. 2102(a)(1). WARN defines a mass layoff as an event in which at least 33% of a site’s full-time workforce suffers an “employment loss.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Hamilton because the worksite did not experience a “mass layoff.” The term “employment loss” is defined as a permanent termination, a layoff exceeding six months, or an extended reduction of work hours.