What are Dislocated Workers?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 31 January 2020
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A dislocated worker is a person who has been terminated or laid off from a job and is unlikely to return to the field in which he previously worked. This definition is often applied to people who have special situations that make it harder to find employment. For example, an older person may have a harder time finding a new job because of his age, or another individual may find that his skills are no longer in demand in his area. Dislocated workers may need significant help in returning to the workforce. Fortunately, many jurisdictions provide services, benefits, and resources that are specifically intended to help dislocated workers.

Losing a job usually causes a significant amount of stress, but it may be even worse for a dislocated worker. This is due to the fact that a dislocated worker may have more difficulty in finding a new job than the average person. There are many reasons a dislocated worker may have more difficulty than others. Among the most common reasons are lack of demand for the worker’s skills, foreign competition, and age. Additionally, a dislocated worker may have difficulty returning to his previous line of work because of a plant’s permanent closure or substantial layoffs, which are long-term layoffs that involve large numbers of workers.


In some places, the displaced worker definition extends to people who were not employed in the traditional sense. For example, a person who is self-employed basically has his own business and is not employed by a company. If a self-employed worker cannot support himself because of a failing economy, however, he may be called a dislocated worker. Likewise, self-employed people who lose their sources of income because of natural disasters may also be referred to as dislocated workers.

Interestingly, some jurisdictions even include dislocated homemakers in the dislocated worker category. A dislocated homemaker is a person who previously provided unpaid homemaking services for members of his family and was supported by the income of a family member, such as a spouse. If the homemaker is no longer able to depend on that person’s income and has been out of the workforce for a significant period of time, he may have difficulty finding a job or earning enough money to support himself and his dependents. If a person in this situation is unemployed or underemployed, he may be called a dislocated worker in some places.

Depending on the jurisdiction in question and the person’s unique situation, a dislocated worker may be eligible for a range of benefits. For example, dislocated workers are often eligible for unemployment benefits, training programs, and special assistance with finding a job. Self-employed individuals and dislocated homemakers may not be eligible for unemployment benefits in many places, but may still have access to other services for dislocated workers.


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Post 2

When my former employer, a chicken processing plant, decided to shut down, the boss had to give all of us a two month warning under the WARN Act. That would give us time to register with the county unemployment office and sign up for dislocated workers programs. Someone from the state employment agency came in and gave us the definition of a dislocated worker. He also explained what benefits we qualified for, including unemployment compensation and COBRA health insurance.

Because our plant was a major employer in the area, there was a lot of concern that other businesses would also suffer if we were all unemployed. Restaurants near the plant might start losing customers, and the schools would face

funding cuts if the parents moved out of town for new work. I was fortunate enough to find another job through a city-sponsored job fair, but other dislocated workers were still looking. When you're used to earning $20 an hour or more, it's tough to accept a retail job that only pays minimum wage.
Post 1

My dad worked for an automotive plant in Alabama for nearly 25 years, then the main company decided to move operations to a plant in Michigan. He was very close to retirement age, but not quite there. There were no other automotive plants hiring in the area, and he didn't feel like he could move to Michigan just to work for a few more years. He became a dislocated worker.

Fortunately, he did qualify for unemployment benefits, and his union negotiated a fair settlement with the company that kept his benefits in place for a year. The company also agreed to give him a medical retirement, so he would get his pension as if he had worked his entire

30 years. He was really fortunate, but other dislocated workers I know didn't do as well.

They tried to get into dislocated workers programs, but the state cut the funding to the one closest to this area. They just had to start over with whatever jobs they could find.

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