The public health crisis caused by COVID-19 has caused lawmakers up and down California to consider new and previously unheard of ways to protect employees.  While most of these methods have involved protections for existing employees, many jurisdictions are considering ways to protect employees who have lost work for reasons related to COVID-19.  One of the methods gaining the most traction is granting laid-off employees rights to recall.

In most situations, separation represents the end of the employee/employer relationship and the termination of any further duties.  Laws providing employees with “recall rights” change that analysis.  Under these laws, employers looking to hire for positions must first offer these positions to any recently separated employees.

Earlier this year, the California legislature passed Assembly  Bill (“AB”) 3216. This law applied to employers operating in the hospitality, janitorial, and airport industries and would have required employers in those industries to offer new jobs to former employees they laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis.  While California Governor Newsom ultimately vetoed AB 3216, similar laws are in place in many local jurisdictions.

For example, the City of Los Angeles passed a “Right of Recall” ordinance that provides that priority must be given to laid-off workers whose most recent separation from active employment occurred on or after March 4, 2020, as a result of lack of business, reduction in force, or other economic, non-disciplinary reason.  Similar laws are in place in Los Angeles County and the cities of Oakland, San Francisco, and Pasadena.

California has never been shy in terms of identifying creative ways to protect its workers.  And while there is currently no statewide law guaranteeing recall rights to California employees, it is easy to see the trend of cities and counties passing their own ordinances on this issue continuing.  If you operate in one of these cities or counties you need to be aware of these laws in order to avoid incurring liability from former employees.