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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023

Recall, Retention Ordinances for Hotel Personnel

The Los Angeles City Council on April 29 adopted emergency right to recall and right of retention ordinances for businesses in the hospitality industry, as well as property management service businesses and airports. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the ordinances on May 3, according to city documents. Business organizations opposed the measures, with Valley Industry & Commerce Association President Stuart Waldman calling in during the e-meeting to voice concerns. “It’s extremely disheartening. This targeting of the hospitality industry, which every elected official and economist has said is the lifeblood of Los Angeles, is going to make it that much harder to recover when we do get that opportunity,” Waldman told the Business Journal. “Hotels, event centers, sports stadiums – that’s why people come to L.A.” Other organizations that represent affected industries echoed Waldman’s sentiments, both at the local level and statewide. “This ordinance would make it impossible to run a business, not just during the public health and economic crisis, but indefinitely,” said Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, chief executive of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We know that companies don’t want to lose their experienced employees but have had to make the difficult decision during this crisis; this decision should continue to lie in their hands only.” According to the recall ordinance, airport, hospitality and commercial property service workers discharged during the COVID-19 pandemic would be offered their positions back based on seniority, retroactive to March 4. Businesses would be required to offer employment in writing by mail, email and text message; former employees would have five days to respond. The ordinance is in effect indefinitely and applies to hotels with 50 or more guestrooms, or that have revenues exceeding $5 million last year; event centers with at least 50,000 square feet or 1,000 seats; airport employers that comply with the city’s living wage ordinance; and commercial property employers with 25 or more janitorial, maintenance and security workers. A former worker would be able to bring an employer to court for violations to the recall ordinance, potentially reclaiming the sum of lost pay and benefits or $1,000, whichever is greater. The employer would need to respond in writing within 15 days to any alleged violation, the city said. “The rebuttable presumption condition would undoubtedly open the door to litigation and create increased cost to business owners,” said Armando Flores, legislative affairs manager for VICA. Flores went on to say the organization wanted this condition as well as punitive damages removed from the ordinance. “These ordinances ensure that hotels will be sued for untold millions of dollars for simple and innocuous mistakes,” added Waldman in a statement following the April 29 meeting. The retention ordinance requires employers in the above-mentioned industries to keep employees for 90 days if a business changes ownership. The new employer is required to hire from a list of workers for six months, from the time business ownership changes hands, according to the ordinance. The incumbent employer, the city said, would need to provide documents detailing worker names, addresses, date of hire and occupation classification within 15 days of ownership transfer. Restaurants are exempted from the ordinances, unless located on hotel premises and owned or operated by the hotel. Those contracted, leased or sublet by a restaurant operator on hotel grounds also fall under the ordinance. Airlines and employers with rental car service agreements are also exempted. “Before the pandemic, there were approximately 76,000 restaurants in the state of California, driving 1.5 million jobs; we estimate that 30,000 of those restaurants will not reopen after this crisis,” a representative with the California Restaurant Association said during an April 22 council e-meeting on the matter. “(Ordinances) would handicap a restaurant’s ability to quickly and efficiently reopen.” Nonprofit institutions of higher learning that operate medical centers are exempted as well, according to the measure. The city authorized a study to look into possible permanent employee recall and retention ordinances for those in the hospitality, tourism and janitorial service sectors; council members and the city attorney are due to report back on the matter in 30 days.

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