Obama administration ignores WARN Act, promises to cover for contractors who don’t issue layoff notices

With its eyes keenly focused on keeping those defense contractors in swing states (read: Virginia) happy and employed, the Obama administration has decided to put its re-election needs over the letter of the law:

Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors backed down from issuing layoff notices to employees on Monday after the Obama administration promised to pick up the tab for severance costs resulting from sequestration.

The news provided welcome relief for President Obama, who faced the prospect of mass layoff notices in battleground states just days before the election, and outraged Republicans, who accused the administration of bending the law to hide job losses from the public.

The White House issued guidance on Friday that said the government would cover the costs if contracts are canceled and layoffs occur due to the automatic spending cuts set for 2013. But that offer would be null and void for any contractor that issues job-loss warnings before sequestration begins.

The law in question here — the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act — “…requires 60 days’ notice for plant closings or layoffs of more than 100 employees for large companies. Companies that don’t send the notices on time can face legal action and severance costs.”

Except, it seems, during election years.

On Monday, House majority leader Eric Cantor issued this statement:

“America’s role as a global leader, our national security and millions of jobs will be jeopardized if the sequester goes forward. Yet, President Obama has failed to lead and even threatened to veto the only plan to avert these arbitrary cuts. While the House acted 144 days ago to replace these crippling defense cuts with responsible reforms, Senate Democrats and the President refuse to work with us on a solution. Instead, they have indicated they are willing to go over the fiscal cliff and let these massive cuts go into effect.

“Now, the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget is telling defense contractors not to issue notices to those who will be laid off as a result. The brave men and women who help defend our country deserve the respect and certainty to adequately prepare for their future. For an Administration that talks a lot about transparency, it is disappointing that they apparently think it is more important to protect their political interests than give hard-working families any indication that they might in fact lose their job in 60 to 90 days due to inaction by the President and Senate Democrats.”

If inaction by Senate Democrats was a criminal offense, they would have been sent up the river over three years ago for refusing to pass a budget.

The President’s political dance with the WARN Act is no different. He’s ignoring the law because obeying it has the potential to create political fallout in places like Virginia that he simply cannot afford.

Just don’t try doing this kind of thing on your own, because little people who disregard federal laws face penalties much worse than losing unlimited free rides on Air Force One.