Right of Recall Laws for Employees Laid Off During Pandemic Emerge in California

October 23, 2020

Despite Governor Gavin Newsom (D) vetoing a statewide measure, several California cities have enacted “right of recall” ordinances for employees in certain industries, raising the question: could they spread to other jurisdictions or be mandated nationwide?

In May, Los Angeles became the first city to provide recall rights.  Its measure requires airports and airport employers, property managers, event center businesses, and hotels that laid off workers on or after March 4 to restore their jobs when business resumes, rather than hire new employees.

Long Beach, San Diego, Oakland, and San Francisco have since followed, although their ordinances vary in scope, mechanics, and duration.  In general, they require businesses in the hard-hit hospitality and entertainment sectors to bring back laid-off workers when employers reopen and staff up.

Unions are lobbying policymakers in Las Vegas, Massachusetts, and other jurisdictions to provide similar rights, and an ordinance has been introduced in Providence, CT.

Outlook:  In August, Governor Newsom vetoed a right of recall bill, saying it would place “too onerous a burden on employers navigating these tough challenges.”  However, ordinances could be enacted in other cities with progressive pro-union city councils creating another maze of administrative requirements that multi-state employers would have to navigate.  It also remains to be seen whether Congress could add federal protections in a future COVID relief measure.