L.A. City Council Adopts Right of Recall and Citywide Worker Retention Ordinances

COVID-19 Update

On April 22, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council considered amendments to two previously proposed ordinances in response to the COVID-19 emergency, which address Right to Recall and Citywide Worker Retention for employees within the City (CF 20-0147-S15, 20-0147-S35 and 20-0147-S42).

The Right to Recall ordinance outlines expectations for rehire based on seniority for certain employers that laid off workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Citywide Worker Retention ordinance aims to protect employees of certain businesses that change ownership or control within two years following the State of California and City of Los Angeles emergency declarations resulting from the pandemic.

The city council agreed to adopt both ordinances, as modified by several amendments.

Under the Right of Recall ordinance, employers of hospitality workers, property management services workers and airport workers that laid off employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic would be required to offer, in writing, any position that is or becomes available for which the laid-off worker is qualified. A laid-off worker is qualified if the worker (1) held the same or a similar position at the same site of employment at the time of the most recent separation; or (2) can become qualified for the position with the same training that would be provided to a new hire for that position. If more than one laid-off worker is entitled to preference for a position, the employer would offer the position to the worker with the greatest length of service. A laid-off worker would have five days to accept or decline the employment opportunity.

The Citywide Worker Retention ordinance would provide similar seniority preferences to workers in the aforementioned industries after a change in business ownership within two years of the emergency declaration. A “change in control” would be defined as any sale, assignment or transfer of a business to a successor business that continues to operate as the same type as the incumbent business, or any person who controls the incumbent business employer. A worker would be defined as one who worked at least six months for the incumbent business employer on or after March 1, 2020, and prior to the change in ownership.

The incumbent business employer would have 15 days after transfer to provide a requisite list of workers to the successor employer. The successor business employer would then be required to hire from the list by seniority for a period of six months after the business is open to the public under the successor business employer. Those workers hired must be employed for at least 90 days, after which a written evaluation for a permanent position will be conducted.

As amended, the Right of Recall and Citywide Worker Retention ordinances apply to businesses in the hospitality, property management services and airport services sectors. This includes hotels that contain 50 or more guestrooms or had earnings exceeding $5 million last year; event centers with at least 50,000 square feet or 1,000 seats used for public performances, sporting events, business conventions, etc.; airport employers required to comply with Los Angeles’ Living Wage Ordinance (L.A. Admin. Code Sec. 10.37); and commercial properties such as shopping centers and office and retail spaces.

The approved amendments to the ordinances provide exemptions for some businesses. For instance, restaurants are exempted unless they are located on hotel premises and owned or operated by the hotel. Restaurants that are contracted, leased or sublet by a restaurant operator on hotel grounds, however, would still be covered. Airlines and employers that have entered into concessionaire or non-concessionaire rental car services agreements are exempt. Nonprofit institutions of higher learning that operate medical centers in Los Angeles are also exempt.

Additionally, before having standing to assert a cause of action, a worker must first provide written notice to an employer outlining any alleged violation of an ordinance. An employer would have 15 days to cure violations. In the event of a lawsuit, a court may award reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to the prevailing party.

Presently, the ordinances do not have express expiration dates. Rather, they specify that the City of Los Angeles chief legislative analyst should report to the City Council and mayor on the effectiveness of the ordinances’ provisions and whether there is a need for their continuance by March 1, 2022.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has stated his intent to sign the ordinances into law once they are finalized.

Read the draft Right of Recall ordinance here.

Read the draft Citywide Worker Retention ordinance here.

Read the approved amendments to both ordinances here.

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