The California Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would require hotels, event centers, janitorial service companies, and other service companies to offer workers laid-off due to COVID-19 their jobs back before hiring others.
Senate Bill 93, authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would require employers, until the end of 2024, to offer employees their jobs back if they had been laid-off due to COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. It would specifically apply to employees who had worked at the company or business for at least 6 months before 2020, with the employer being required to present proof that an employee had been terminated for other reasons if they choose not to rehire them.
SB 93 would also prohibit an employer from refusing to employ, terminating, reducing compensation, or taking other adverse action against any laid-off employee for seeking to enforce their rights until the bills December 2024 deadline. Non-compliance could cost companies up to $500 per employee per day.
The bill would also not apply to all sectors, instead focusing on those jobs that were hit the hardest by the pandemic, including hotel workers such as maids, private clubs, airport hospitality workers, and building service workers such as janitors and maintenance staff.
Skinner wrote the bill following the surprise veto by Governor Gavin Newsom of AB 3216 last year, a similar employee rehire bill. As Governor Newsom rejected AB 3216 for being too broad of a bill that would hurt many businesses, Skinner tailored her iteration of the rehire bill to focus exclusively on sectors that had laid off the most people during the pandemic, necessitating companies to rehire the same people in industries that wouldn’t be hurt by it. Skinner also noted that the bill would help many women get back in the workplace.
“Excellent! The CA Senate just approved SB 93, which will prioritize the rehiring of laid off workers in the state’s hospitality sector as our economy fully reopens,” said Skinner on Thursday via a tweet. “Now, it on to Gavin Newsom for consideration.”
In a later statement, Skinner added that ” you could also look at this bill as a very important bill to get women back in the workplace.”
Excellent! The CA Senate just approved #SB93, which will prioritize the rehiring of laid off workers in the state's hospitality sector as our economy fully reopens.
— Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) April 15, 2021
Many lawmakers continue to oppose SB 93
Despite the Senate, and earlier this week, the Assembly passing the bill, there remains heavy opposition against SB 93. 19 Assembly members from both parties voted against the bill on Monday, with many Senators doing the same on Thursday, over the very high per day, per employee fines. Many have argued that businesses would likely be hiring back those same employees anyway due to already being experienced and trained, and that it put unjust liability on the employer.
“To put the burden, to the fines, the fees, the liability on the employer is unacceptable,” said Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-Ripon) on Monday.
Business owners affected by the bill also say that it could wind up hurting them.
“It takes away our right to hire who we want to,” said Los Angeles hotel assistant manager Martin Castillo to the Globe on Thursday. “It’s either hire them back or pay this fine, even if there are better candidates out there from closed hotels and things like that. It’s nuts. A lot of people want jobs still, and this limits us in who we can get.”
SB 93 is now sitting on the Governor’s desk in Sacramento. While Governor Newsom has not indicated if he will veto the bill again, the Governor’s office was involved in the negotiations over the bills passage in the legislature, indicating that he may favor signing the bill this time.