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Navigating a Layoff

Considering or experiencing layoffs? Let DWD help. If you are an employer considering or experiencing a business closing or downsizing, contact the State’s Dislocated Worker Program for Rapid Response assistance. The state’s Rapid Response Coordinators can help you navigate through this difficult process by connecting you with appropriate state and local contacts, identifying resources that can help your company and workers, and helping with the development and implementation of a transition strategy.

Services are tailored to best meet the company’s and workers’ needs and, because they are funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), they are offered at no cost to you or your workers. It is never too soon to contact us. Our early involvement is key to helping workers prepare to re-enter the workforce as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Contact us by either calling (608) 405-4070 or emailing the Dislocated Worker Unit.

Federal and state statutes require employers to provide advance written notice of a business closing or workforce reduction in certain situations. Send the written notice to

Preventing Layoffs Rapid Response Benefits Managing Layoffs Work with Us

Preventing Layoffs

Is it possible to prevent a business closing or mass layoff? Sometimes it is, especially if the company is aware of early warning signs and is receptive to exploring options that may help. While intervention may not save all jobs, it may save some and may help to prevent future layoffs. Explore additional resources for preventing a layoff.

Take Action
While taking action is not a one size fits all type of thing, there is scheme that is generally followed:

STEP 1: Examine internal business operations and external forces that affect business operations.

Employee working at panel

STEP 2: Identify problem areas.

STEP 3: Develop and implement solutions, such as:

  • making a change in leadership
  • engaging in financial restructuring
  • modernizing / upgrading equipment or software
  • converting to new products and/or markets
  • expanding skills of the existing workforce
  • improving recruitment and retention of talent
  • transferring of ownership

Rapid Response Benefits

Rapid Response Benefits Your Business

  • Helping to increase productivity and lower absenteeism in the time leading up to the layoff by providing information and support to your workers
  • Lowering unemployment insurance costs because your workers may become re-employed more quickly
  • Decreasing the likelihood of work disruptions occurring
  • Connecting you to helpful information, resources, and individuals
  • Demonstrating your commitment to the workforce and community

Rapid Response Benefits Your Employees

  • On-site pre-layoff information sessions covering topics such as:
    • unemployment insurance
    • health care
    • the WIOA Dislocated Worker Program
    • community resources
    • local labor market information
    • financial education and budgeting
  • On-site pre-layoff re-employment assistance that may include:
    • résumé writing
    • interviewing
    • job search resources and techniques
Contact the rapid response team to begin steps toward developing a transition strategy.

Managing Layoffs

Assistance Employers May Provide for Workers
There are several things employers can do to assist workers through the transition period, many of which cost little to nothing. Ways employers may contribute include:

  • providing each affected employee with written notice of layoff, including separation date, on company letterhead
  • providing space and, when needed, audio / visual equipment for on-site meetings
  • allowing employees to attend the meetings, preferably on paid work time
  • providing employees with a copy of their job descriptions and the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the work
  • explaining to the employees the company's policy on employee references, including the type of reference the company will provide to other employers and how references will be handled if the business is closing
  • lending human resources staff to activities like résumé workshops, one-on-one assistance with résumé preparation, interviewing workshops, and mock interviews
  • taking time to individually meet with the affected employees to discuss how each employee added value to the company, any training completed that resulted in new or upgraded skills, as well as awards, promotions or other forms of recognition earned
  • reminding employees about resources available through the company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if one exists
  • extending employees' access to EAP services for a period of time following layoff
  • extending outreach to other employers who may be interested in the skill sets possessed by the affected workforce
  • hosting an on-site career fair to allow employees the opportunity to easily connect with new employers

Health Insurance Considerations
Most employer-sponsored group health plans must comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) which is Federal law that sets standards to protect certain employee benefits. One protection contained in ERISA is the right to COBRA continuation coverage – i.e., temporary continuation of group health coverage following a qualifying event such as termination of employment. More detailed information about COBRA and compliance requirements may be found on the Department of Labor’s website.

Employer-sponsored group health plans may also have to comply with Wisconsin’s continuation law, Wisconsin Statutes section 632.897. The law applies to group policies issued to employers of any size; it does not apply to employer self-funded health plans or policies that limit coverage to specified diseases or accidental injuries. Questions about this law and compliance requirements may be directed to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance via phone (608) 266-3585 / (800) 236-8517 or email

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) offers certain protections to people who lose their health insurance. Under HIPAA, the health plan must provide an individual who loses coverage with a certificate of creditable coverage. This must be provided free of charge. More information may be found on the Department of Labor’s website.

Environmental Considerations
When a company location closes, there may be real or perceived environmental contamination that hinders any efforts to clean up and redevelop the property. Through the Wisconsin Plant Recovery Initiative (WPRI), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) helps employers and communities expedite the cleanup and revitalization of industrial and commercial facilities that will be closing or have recently closed. When the DNR learns that an industrial or commercial facility will be closing, someone from the WPRI team will contact the employer to further discuss the program and how it may be of assistance. To learn more about this program, visit the DNR website.

Sample Notice Letters
Employers laying off workers employed in Wisconsin should be aware that federal and/or state law may require that written notice be provided 60 days in advance of a dislocation event. Employers must comply with both laws if they both apply. Sample letters are provided to help with this process. Learn more about notice guidelines and the mass layoff law. Send the written notice to

Sample letter to employee Sample Letter to State Sample letter to collective bargaining representative
Sample Letter to Employee (PDF)
Sample Letter to State & Municipal Official (PDF)
Sample Letter to Collective Bargaining Representative (PDF)

Work with Us

The rapid response team can begin working with your company as soon you provide notice that your company is considering or experiencing permanent layoffs. Remember, early intervention is key for helping make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. Learn more about our process and get an overview of Wisconsin's Business Closing and Mass Layoff Law.