Written by Skyler Shipp (News Writer)
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of many. Since March of 2020, our lives have been put on hold, and a lot of people have lost their jobs. The hospitality business has been especially hard hit by the pandemic, with California’s leisure and hospitality industry losing 576,600 jobs from March 2020 to March 2021, according to the EDD (Employment Development Department) (Patch.com). Much of this is due to how much harder it is for the hospitality industry to operate under COVID-19 restrictions when compared to other industries. California’s Senate Bill 93, which has just been signed by Governor Newsom, is intended to help those in these impacted industries get their jobs back after losing them. California’s hospitality industry is especially hard hit after having to endure some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the country.
The law applies to hotels and private clubs with over 50 guest rooms, with over 50,000 square feet and 1,000 seats, airport hospitality operations and service providers, and any commercial building janitorial, maintenance, or security workers. Also, the law only applies to workers who have worked “6 months or more in the 12 months preceding January 1, 2020”, and been “separat[ed] from active service…due to a reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a public health directive, government shutdown order, lack of business, a reduction in force, or other economic, nondisciplinary reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” (National Law Review).
But what does the law actually do? It requires covered employers to send a job offer to laid-off employees if a new position which they are qualified for is opened. If the offer is accepted, the company must rehire them. If multiple employees apply to one position, the one who worked with the company the longest gets the job. The law is enforced by the California Division of Labor Standards and they can award employees who were not offered employment hiring and reinstatement rights, front or back pay, the value of the benefits that would have been received under the employers’ benefits plan, and interest on all amounts due and unpaid (National Law Review). Employers must also keep records of laid-off employees for three years and establish a process for rehiring. The records must include the legal name, job type, hire date, last known address, last known email, and last known phone number. The law will be in effect until the end of 2024 (LA Times).
This law is a more moderate version of a previous bill, AB 3216, that was vetoed by Newsom because of how it used state of emergency as a criterion, meaning that it would apply to layoffs unrelated to the actual source of the emergency, and would also vary widely by locality, creating a patchwork of regulations. He also noted that the bill risks sharing too much information about hired employees and that it puts too much of a burden on employers (Newsom AB 3216 Veto Message). Senate Bill 93 improved on many of these points, enough to earn Newsom’s signature.
While the new law is supported by most Democrats, it was opposed by Republicans, who feel the law places too much of a burden on businesses struggling to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. It takes rehiring decisions away from the employer by further regulating the hiring process.
The signing of SB 93 into law is a major win for laid-off hospitality workers who have had to deal with much of the fallout from pandemic restrictions. Labor unions are also applauding the legislation. Some employers aren’t as happy about this new law, as it limits their ability to choose who they hire for a new position as they are recovering from the pandemic’s impact on their businesses. However, the law’s narrow requirements ensure that it only affects the hospitality industry and that it, for the most part, doesn’t affect small businesses.