The Obama administration has doubled down on its plea to defense contractors  not to warn employees about possible layoffs due to looming budget cuts —  going so far as to offer to cover legal fees in compensation  challenges.

The move drew a stern rebuke Friday from South Dakota Republican Sen. John  Thune, since federal law requires employers to give notice if mass layoffs are  likely.

“For the second time, the Obama administration has now encouraged government  contractors to ignore the WARN Act and hold off on warning employees about  possible layoffs due to the looming sequestration cuts,” Thune, lead author of  the Sequestration Transparency Act, said Friday.

The offer to pay the legal fees was included in a memorandum issued by the  administration Friday that also restated the Labor Department’s position from  July that contractors should not issue written notices to employees because of  the “uncertainty” over the across-the-board cuts to the defense budget and other  federal spending that will occur Jan. 2 unless Congress reaches a new deal.

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