Collins v. Gee West Seattle LLC, 631 F.3d 1001 (9th Cir. 2011)

On September 26, 2007, Gee West informed its 150 employees that although it was actively pursuing the sale of the business, it would be closing its doors and would terminate all but a few business office employees on October 7, 2007 if a buyer was not found by then. Between the time of the announcement and the day operations ceased on October 5, 2007, 120 of the 150 employees stopped reporting to work. The plaintiff employees in this lawsuit alleged Gee West had violated the WARN Act because it had failed to give 60-days’ notice to the employees before closing its doors. The district granted summary judgment to the employer on the ground that the employees had voluntarily departed, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the term “voluntary departure” as used in the WARN Act does not include an employee’s departure from a job because the business is closing. Cf. Candari v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., 193 Cal.App.4th 402 (2011) (employer has the burden of demonstrating the availability of comparable employment positions before projected earnings of alternative employment opportunities not sought by the discharged employee are considered for purposes of mitigation).