Los Angeles Hospitality Workers Among Those Thrown a Potential Lifeline

The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance today (April 29, 2020) designed to protect hospitality, tourism, and janitorial workers in the City of Los Angeles who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is anticipated that Mayor Eric Garcetti will sign the ordinance into law shortly.

The ordinance as passed requires certain businesses to provide recall notices to workers let go because of the coronavirus pandemic when their positions become available once again. The notices must offer these laid-off individuals the opportunity to come back to work and, in turn, those workers have five days to accept or decline their offers.

Michelman & Robinson answers questions you may have about the pending law.

Q. What businesses and employers does the Right of Recall Ordinance apply to?

A. The ordinance applies to all of the following:

  • Owners, operators, or managers of hotels in Los Angeles that either contains 50 or more guestrooms or have earned gross receipts in 2019 exceeding $5M million (this includes owners, operators managers, or lessees of any restaurant physically located within such a hotel)
  • Owners, operators, or managers of event spaces in Los Angeles—those that are more than 50,000 square feet or have a seating capacity of 1,000 seats and are used for public performances, sporting events, business meetings, or similar events (e.g., concert halls, stadiums, sports arenas, racetracks, coliseums, and convention centers)
  • Employers whose workers provide services at L.A. area airports, with the exception of airlines and any employer that is party to an agreement with an airport in Los Angeles that contains a worker rehire requirement
  • Owners, operators, managers, or lessees (including contractors, subcontractors, or sublessees) of commercial property in Los Angeles that employ 25 or more janitorial, maintenance, or security service workers (these are the only categories of commercial property workers covered by the ordinance)

Q. What workers does the Right of Recall Ordinance apply to?

A. The ordinance applies to any person who (1) worked at least two hours a week for one of the foregoing businesses or employers, (2) did so for at least six months, and (3) was laid off on or after March 4, 2020, as a result of a lack of business, a reduction in work force, or other economic, non-disciplinary reason. Of note, the ordinance does not apply to managers, supervisors, confidential employees, or individuals working in sponsorship sales for an event center employer.

Q. What are the technical requirements of the recall notices?

A. Applicable businesses and employers (see above) must send written recall notices to applicable workers (see above). These notices are to be sent by mail (to the last known mailing address), email, and text message, and should notify any given worker that his or her job (the same or similar position) is available, or that there is another position that the worker can be trained for. If more than one worker is entitled to preference for a position, the job should be offered to the one with the most seniority.

As mentioned above, a worker who receives a recall notice has five days to accept or decline the offer of re-employment.

Q. What risks are associated with a business or employer not abiding by the Right of Recall Ordinance?

A. A worker that has been laid off may sue his or her former employer in the Los Angeles Superior Court for violation of the ordinance. Such a lawsuit subjects that employer to reinstatement of the employee, actual or statutory damages of no less than $1,000, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Q. How does a collective bargaining agreement impact the Right to Recall Ordinance?

A. If a collective bargaining agreement is currently in place and it includes a right of recall provision, it will supersede the ordinance. However, if a collective bargaining agreement in effect does not include right of recall language, the ordinance will apply.

Q. Have any other similar ordinances been passed by the Los Angeles City Council?

A. Yes, along with the Right to Recall Ordinance, the Los Angeles City Council also passed the Citywide Worker Retention Ordinance that provides seniority preferences to the workers described above in the event there is a change in business ownership (e.g., a sale or transfer of a business) within two years of the COVID-19-related emergency declarations made in the City of Los Angeles and State of California.

Pursuant to the latter law, an employer that has sold or transferred its business has 15 days to provide a list of workers to the successor employer, which is then required to hire from the list by seniority for a period of six months after the business is open to the public under the new management. The successor employer must retain those workers for at least 90 days, after which time a written evaluation for a permanent position is to be conducted.

One of the takeaways from the Citywide Worker Retention Ordinance is that we can expect to see the economic effects of COVID-19 upon the hospitality, tourism, event space, and commercial property businesses for at least the next two years.

This blog post is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.