TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Legislation that proponents say would close loopholes in New Jersey’s law regarding mass layoffs may soon go before the full Assembly.

The measure began gathering steam about three months ago, after the company that operates Charlie Brown’s Steakhouses abruptly closed 47 restaurants in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania and filed for federal bankruptcy protection.

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The closings left about 1,900 New Jerseyans suddenly and unexpectedly unemployed.

“The legislature has been pushing hard to create jobs and improve our business climate, but employees have rights, too, especially when dealing with large franchisors who see fit to close without notice,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, D-Hamilton (Mercer County). He’s one of the primary sponsors of the measure that could come up for a vote as soon as next month.

It would require franchisors or holding companies to provide 60 days notice of closing and mass layoffs at any of their sites. New Jersey currently only requires that such notice be made by single establishments with 50 or more full-time employees.

Firms that conduct mass layoffs would still be required to provide severance pay to full-time employees, who get one week of pay for each full year they worked. The pay rate is based on the average compensation they received during their last three years of employment or the amount they received in their final year, whichever is higher.

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The pending legislation was approved in January by the Assembly’s Labor Committee. Besides DeAngelo, the bill’s primary sponsors were Democratic Majority Leader Joseph Cryan of Union and Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May Court House.

Identical legislation has been introduced in the senate, where it is under consideration by that chamber’s Labor Committee. Its primary sponsors are Democrats Fred Madden of Turnersville and Sandra Cunningham of Jersey City.

Albano, who was among the lawmakers who sponsored the current mass layoffs law, said the proposed changes provide “reasonable protection” for workers.

“No one deserves to be shoved out the door in this or any economy without the fairness of advanced notice,” he said. “This bill is quite simply the right thing to do for working class New Jerseyans.”

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