Los Angeles Adopts COVID-19 Right-of-Recall and Worker-Retention Laws

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 12, 2020

Los Angeles employers in industries especially hard hit by the coronavirus must rehire employees furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 in a specified manner, rather than at the employers' discretion, under a pair of new city ordinances.

In enacting the COVID-19 Right of Recall Ordinance and COVID-19 Worker Retention Ordinance, the City acknowledged that many workers in Los Angeles are facing significant job and economic insecurity resulting from the pandemic and "Safer at Home" declarations by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The ordinances are aimed at protecting the jobs of workers who were employed by:

  • Airport employers;
  • Event center employers;
  • Hotel employers; and
  • Commercial property employers (including contractors or subcontractors) that employ 25 or more janitorial, maintenance or security service workers.

The recall ordinance mandates that laid-off nonsupervisory employees must be rehired under a recall procedure. Under the ordinance, a laid-off worker means any person:

  • Who performed at least two hours of work in a given week within the City of Los Angeles;
  • Who worked for the employer for six months or more; and
  • Whose most recent separation from active employment occurred on or after March 4, 2020, due to a lack of business, reduction in force (RIF) or other nondisciplinary reason.

To qualify for recall, the laid-off worker must have held the same or similar position at the same site of employment at the time of the most recent separation; or would be qualified for the position with the same training that would be provided to a newly-hired worker in that position.

If more than one laid off worker is entitled to preference for a position, the ordinance states that the employer must offer the position to the laid-off worker with the greatest length of active service with the employer. Also, a laid-off worker who is offered a position must be given at least five business days to accept or decline the offer.

Under the worker retention ordinance, which applies to the same employers covered by the recall ordinance, when a covered business experiences a "change in control," the successor employer must give preference to hiring workers from the previous employer's recall list. This preference must last for at least six months after the business is open to the public under the successor employer.

A successor employer must provide a worker with a written employment offer for this transition period and hold that offer open for at least 10 business days from the date of the offer. These employers also must retain each worker hired under the ordinance for at least 90 days and may let them go only for cause.

Both ordinances are effective June 14 and include anti-retaliation provisions protecting workers who exercise their rights. They also note that employers with collective bargaining agreements that include right of recall or worker retention provisions will supersede these ordinances.

The ordinances give covered workers the right to bring lawsuits in California state courts for damages if the employers do not remedy violations within 15 days of receiving notice about them.