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In first-of-its-kind legal action, agency alleges resort violated state “return-to-work” law for workers laid off during the pandemic
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA- The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) issued a citation Wednesday totalling $3,264,484 to the swanky but controversial Terranea Resort, alleging that the hotel failed to recall, or to timely recall, workers to their former positions in violation of a recently-enacted state law. The Terranea resort is the first company known to be cited by the agency for allegedly violating workers’ rights under the law.
Signed into law last year, SB-93 requires hotels, event centers, and other hospitality businesses to offer employees whom they laid off due the COVID-19 downturn in tourism an opportunity to return to work in open positions for which they are qualified in order of seniority. The law provides job protection to some 700,000 laid-off housekeepers, cooks, waiters, and others across the state.
David Gomez Martinez, who was laid off by the Terranea after working 10 years at the resort, said: “Being laid off during the pandemic has been devastating for me and my family. We’ve struggled to pay our bills and keep food on the table. I am really glad to see the state stepping in to make sure Terranea complies with the law.”
The DLSE, which is led by California’s Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower, conducted an investigation in response to complaints from workers alleging violations of the recall law. More than a dozen Terranea workers–including servers, cooks, and room attendants–filed complaints.
After investigating Terranea’s entire recall process, the DLSE issued the citation to Terranea for $3,264,484 in liquidated damages and interest owed to 53 workers for Terranea’s alleged failure to recall, or timely recall, workers laid-off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Terranea was also assessed $5,300 in civil penalties ($100 for each worker whose rights were violated).
Terranea workers were at the forefront of the campaign to enact SB-93. The company terminated most of its employees without making a binding commitment to rehire them and cut off their healthcare at the beginning of the pandemic.
Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, the hospitality workers’ union that fought for the law and helped the workers file complaints, said: “The Terranea has treated its veteran workers like they are disposable. This kind of behavior is not only immoral, but as the agency’s massive citation shows, it can also be illegal.” He continued: “I commend the Labor Commissioner for conducting such a thorough investigation and showing that our worker protection laws have real teeth.”
UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona that work in hotels, restaurants, universities, stadiums, sports arenas, convention centers, and airports.
California becomes first state in the U.S to pass historic worker protections
BREAKING NEWS: We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of the Hospitality Workers Right to Return bill today which guarantees that hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers will have the legal right to return to work when tourism returns.
COVID-19 has devastated the tourism industry. More than a year after the pandemic began, 80% of hotel workers remain unemployed. Dozens of UNITE HERE Local 11 members have lost their lives to COVID-19.
During the worst health crisis in modern history, many hospitality employers–such as the Terranea Resort and Chateau Marmont–terminated workers who had made their hotels successful, without extending their healthcare or making any binding commitment to recall them when the crisis subsides. By discarding their veteran employees when they needed them most, these irresponsible employers left workers in a state of profound insecurity, creating a critical need for right-to-return to-work legislation.
Beginning in May 2020, UNITE HERE Local 11 passed the nation’s first hospitality workers’ right to return to work law in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and elsewhere in Southern California. Similar legislation has since been passed throughout the country, including in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland, and Boston.
Today’s law covers the world’s largest tourism industry. More than 700,000 California hotel, event center, airport concession, and building services workers will now have the right to return to their jobs when the pandemic subsides. This law brings hope and security to these professional service workers and their families.
“I’ve been struggling to make ends meet and was in the hospital for Covid-19 in January. Right now, I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay my medical bills and rent after my young daughter was also in the hospital for kidney failure. I want respect and rights for workers like me. I need to go back to work for my family and this law will help me do that,” said Antonio Rodriguez, who worked as a banquet server at Terranea Resort for 11 years.
We urge other states to follow Governor Newsom’s lead and guarantee the right to return to work to all hospitality workers in our nation.
“We know that the hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic, but it’s not the executives who are suffering. Their paychecks continue to come in. It’s working people who are paying the price,” said State Senator Maria Elena Durazo. “Too many times, after times of crises, we see the hotel industry come roaring back while their former workers are left out cold. Thanks to Governor Newsom’s signing of this bill, we are not going to let that happen this time around,”
“Workers need certainty right now as we reopen the state. Knowing they will be offered their jobs back should give hospitality workers a bit of long overdue relief. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
“I commend Governor Newsom for signing SB 93 into law and recognizing that California’s economy cannot recover without its workers. We saw firsthand the economic devastation the Great Recession had on the state’s workforce and during the pandemic, thousands across the hospitality and building services industry have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. In the face of an uncertain economic recovery, this legislation is a necessary yet reasonable approach that will ensure security for an already vulnerable workforce by affording long standing, qualified employees the opportunity to return to their jobs as businesses resume operations,” said Assemblyman Ash Kalra.
“I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing such a historic policy. The Los Angeles Labor Movement is proud to have stood in solidarity with the housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and airport workers to pass this landmark policy. This is a huge win for workers in California and is an example of what our movement can accomplish when we stick together and fight for common goal,” Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
We are grateful to the leadership and tenacity of our state Democratic legislators, especially Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, who valiantly fought for these workers. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, led by Ron Herrera, walked with us every step of the way, and we thank the MLB Players Association, the NFL Players Association, SAG AFTRA and CLUE and Jesuits West for their early support.
We are most inspired and humbled by the courageous room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, and food service workers who lobbied, picketed, and never doubted for a moment that they deserved to return to their jobs.
Recall Rights for Hospitality Workers is Now Law in California
We applaud Governor Newsom who stands with these workers and affirms that no one should permanently lose their job during this pandemic. We are grateful to the leadership and tenacity of our state Democratic legislators, especially Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, Assemblyman Ash Kalra , and Senator Maria Elena Durazo.
SACRAMENTO–California’s hospitality workforce is experiencing unprecedented levels of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced Assembly Bill 1074, supported by hotel workers and UNITE HERE Local 11, to make sure hospitality workers are able to return to work when their employers can safely resume business operations.
“Latinos have made up the backbone of the hospitality industry for decades. Many stayed with the same employers for years in order to work their way up and earn a stable living. They have already disproportionately suffered the brunt of this pandemic,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “When hotels and event centers can safely reopen, the least we must do is ensure workers can return to the jobs they previously held. AB 1074 is commonsense policy that provides the support our local communities need to recover from this economic crisis.”
Earlier today, Assemblywoman Gonzalez joined dozens of workers who caravanned from Los Angeles and Orange County to La Jolla for a press conference outside JC Resorts’ corporate headquarters. JC Resorts owns and operates hotels and golf courses across California, including the Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes, which terminated much of its workforce amid the pandemic without making a binding commitment to rehire longtime workers when the hotel reopened. Gonzalez’s AB 1074 would help ensure job security for these workers by establishing statewide rehiring and retention protections for California’s hospitality workforce.
Nearly 40% of all California jobs lost during the pandemic have been in the hospitality industry. AB 1074 would save hundreds of thousands of jobs and boost long-term economic recovery by ensuring qualified, laid-off employees in the hospitality industry are offered employment when their jobs become available as businesses reopen. The bill would prevent discriminatory hiring practices designed to cut costs by replacing longtime employees with a less experienced workforce at lower rates of pay.
“California’s hospitality workforce has been decimated by COVID-19, and these employees deserve basic protections which will allow them to return to the jobs and wages they earned before the pandemic as the industry reopens,” Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angles), principal co-author of AB 1074, said. “This bill effectively addresses the concerns Governor Newsom raised to our prior effort.”
A number of local jurisdictions across the state have already passed similar ordinances to ensure hospitality workers have the right to return to their previous jobs, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Long Beach, and Pasadena.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Latina Inequities. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, visit http://asm.ca.gov/gonzalez