California Forces Employers To Rehire Workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed new legislation to require some businesses in the Golden State to rehire workers who were laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Senate Bill 93 was approved April 16 and immediately became law.  Through 2024, it requires employers to offer “displaced” workers their jobs back if they had been let go because of the pandemic.

According to the bill text: 

  • Employers are to offer laid-off employees specified information about job positions that become available for which the laid-off employees are qualified, and to offer positions to those laid-off employees based on a preference system, in accordance with specified timelines and procedures. 
  • The law applies only to employees with the company for 6 months or more in the 12 months preceding January 1, 2020, and whose “most recent separation from active service” was directly related to the pandemic. 
  • Employers need to keep records for 3 years, including records of communications regarding job offers to these former employees.
  • If an employer refuses to bring back a laid-off employee “on the grounds of lack of qualifications” and “instead hires someone other than a laid-off employee,”  they will need to provide the laid-off employee “a written notice within 30 days including specified reasons for the decision, and other information on those hired.”

“As we progress toward fully reopening our economy, it is important we maintain our focus on equity,” Newsom said. “SB 93 keeps us moving in the right direction by assuring hospitality and other workers displaced by the pandemic are prioritized to return to their workplace.”

Six million dollars was allocated with the bill to help businesses with the rehiring process. 

Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, which pushed for the legislation, was among the advocates who praised the governor’s approval of the bill.

“This is the biggest win for workers during the pandemic,” Peterson said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “This is a lifeline to workers who have been out of work a long time. This gives them a guaranteed right to go back. That’s something they didn’t have yesterday.”

California saw major job losses during the pandemic and an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent in March — nearly double what it was a year earlier, when a slew of regulations and closures were enacted to help curtail the spread of coronavirus.  

Among the hardest hit was the hospitality industry, which lost 576,600 jobs from March 2020 to March 2021,  according to the EDD.