L.A. Council Votes to Create Laws to Have Workers Rehired After COVID-19


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council voted today to have the city attorney and staff draft an ordinance that would protect jobs of hospitality, janitorial and tourism workers who were laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The fact that we've narrowed the scope to these industries ... makes sense,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said, adding that the city should protect people who have worked for a company for years and therefore get paid more.

Under the proposed ordinances, businesses would be required to provide notices to workers that they are rehiring people, after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Laid-off workers would have 10 days to respond to worker recall notices from employers, and people who have worked for businesses the longest would be prioritized.

“There's temptation to hire people at minimum wage. I think this is really important to protect vulnerable workers who have given years to the company,” Blumenfield said.

Employers would have 15 days to respond to claims against them from employees who say they weren't given ample opportunity to be rehired.

Sharon Tso, the city's chief legislative analyst, said the proposed ordinance would be in effect until March 2022, and reports on the ordinance could come back to the council before then.

Mayor Eric Garcetti voiced support for the proposal on Tuesday. Garcetti said getting those industry workers back to their jobs seems like “a long way off,” but the city has to prepare now.

The City Attorney's Office was given 30 days to draft the protective ordinance.

Councilman Joe Buscaino pointed out that the mayor's budget proposal for the next fiscal year shows that tourism and hospitality are industries among the most affected by the pandemic.

Buscaino said he wanted an economic impact study on the proposals before they are passed, which was adopted by the council.

“We need to be mindful of unintended consequences, so I'd like to make sure smaller hotels are not overburdened by regulations,” Buscaino said.

Council President Nury Martinez moved to widen the definition of hospitality workers to include property managers and airport workers (outside airlines and rental car facilities) and workers at hotels with more than 50 guest rooms, or ones that generated more than $5 million in hotel taxes in the last year.

Employers at convention and event centers or venues with 1,000 seats or more would also be required to provide their employees with a chance to retain their jobs.

The council president's motion also seeks to include workers at commercial office buildings with more than 25 employees to be protected.

If a collective bargaining agreement is already in place between the employees and employers, that would inform the terms of the protection until it expires, when employers would then have to comply with the city's standards.

The City Council also made amendments to previously proposed ordinances designed to protect other workers of businesses deemed essential during the pandemic.

For the Worker Retention ordinance and the Right of Recall ordinance, the city changed the requirement to apply to businesses with 50 or more employees, and said it would amend both ordinances to exempt restaurants.

The council also changed both those ordinances to apply to hospitality workers only.

The Right of Recall ordinance was amended to exclude nonprofit institutions of higher learning that operate medical centers in the city of Los Angeles.

The council also voted to not allow punitive damages to be awarded to a laid-off worker if an employer in found to have violated the Right of Recall ordinance.

The City Council is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, but it remains to be seen if the worker-retention proposals will be on the agenda.

Photos: Getty Images

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