On February 16, 2021, the City Council of West Hollywood, California passed aemergency orderestablish a premium for grocery store workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. West Hollywood is located in central Los Angeles County, northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The order requires large grocery stores in West Hollywood to pay their workers a bonus of $ 5 for each hour worked. The ordinance took effect immediately and will expire 120 days after its effective date.
The ordinance defines covered employers as grocery store hiring entities that employ more than 300 grocery store workers nationwide and more than 15 grocery store employees in the city of West Hollywood. The ordinance defines the grocery store[s] as stores that devote 70% or more of their activity to the retail sale of fresh and / or packaged food products.
The ordinance applies to workers who are employed directly by a rental entity in a grocery store. The ordinance excludes managers, supervisors and confidential employees.
The order prohibits an employer from reducing workers’ compensation in the grocery store or limiting the earning capacity of grocery store workers following the coming into force of the orders. If an employer reduces grocery workers’ compensation or limits an employee’s earning capacity (for example by transferring the employee to a part-time position), the employer must demonstrate that they would have taken the same measure whether the West Hollywood City Council had ever passed the ordinance. The ordinance also prohibits employer retaliation against grocery store workers who exercise their rights under the ordinance.
The ordinance requires employers to inform workers at the covered grocery store in writing of their rights. The notice should include information regarding (a) the right to premium payment guaranteed by the order; (b) the right to be protected from reprisals; and (c) the right to bring a civil action for an employer’s violation of the order. Employers must post the required notice in a location that employees use for breaks, as well as in an electronic format accessible to grocery store workers through a smartphone app or online web portal. An employer must provide the notice both in English and in any language known to be the primary language of grocery store employees.
Retention of records
Employers must keep records of compliance with the ordinance for at least two years. Failure by an employer to do so will result in a rebuttable presumption that the employer has violated the order.
Collective bargaining agreements
A collective agreement can override the enforcement of orders, but only if the agreement explicitly states the waiver in clear and unambiguous terms.
The ordinance creates a private right of action for covered grocery store workers who suffer financial damage or retaliation as a result of violations of the ordinance. The ordinance also authorizes attorneys’ fees and costs for employees who successfully pursue such civil actions.
2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 54
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