The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance Tuesday giving janitors, maintenance workers, security guards and hospitality industry employees a “right of recall” to jobs from which they were laid off during the coronavirus crisis.
Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis championed the “right of recall” and a second ordinance providing worker retention in the event of bankruptcy filings or sales.
“While federal, state and local programs, and efforts by nonprofits, have provided some support to janitorial, maintenance, security service and hospitality workers in the short term, what these workers need most is the promise of a return to their previous jobs as the pandemic recedes and business returns,” the first ordinance reads in part.
The “right of recall” ordinance applies to unincorporated areas of the county and to hotels with 50 or more guestrooms or 2019 gross receipts in excess of $5 million. Businesses that employ 25 or more janitorial, maintenance or security service workers are subject to the rules. However, any employers with collective bargaining agreements in place will be exempt.
“These added protections give workers who have built careers and livelihoods in industries that have been absolutely decimated by this pandemic the peace of mind that, as these businesses start to come back, their jobs will still be there for them,” Hahn said.
Business groups objected to the ordinances, warning that the right of recall would create unnecessary and expensive legal wrangling just when businesses can least afford it.
“We remain opposed to the right of recall and worker retention,” said a representative of the Los Angeles County Business Federation. “Businesses are struggling to survive … it’s best to help them do it rather than impose burdensome rules and regulations.”
Patricia Torres Bruno of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce told the board, “This is already an incredibly difficult time for small and medium-sized businesses” which “need maximum flexibility” in reopening and putting employees back to work.
When rehiring, employers will be required to offer jobs to those who once held them if the worker was let go as a result of a downturn in business related to the pandemic and employed by the business for at least six months.
Employers will have five days to respond. Supervisor Kathryn Barger had suggested a two-day window to accept a reoffered job, but failed to gain the support of her colleagues.
Workers with health issues will be able to use their remaining sick leave before returning to work.
If fewer workers are required, employees with seniority will be given preference.
Retaliation against workers seeking to enforce this right is prohibited.
Solis pointed to a March estimate by the Economic Policy Institute that California could lose 600,000 jobs due to the coronavirus.
“Workers in these industries are overwhelmingly people of color, who are already severely impacted by COVID-19, and we need to provide these hardworking employees and their families necessary protections at this critical time,” Solis said.
“This effort to protect these workers started 30 years with the launch of the Justice for Janitors campaign and now it culminates with a board motion and ordinance that recognize that workers deserve to earn living wages and be safe during this pandemic,” she said.
Any new owner will be required to follow the same regulations for at least six months after a business reopens and to retain those workers for at least 90 days.
The ordinances were both introduced and adopted at Tuesday’s meeting.