Laid Off Because Of COVID-19? In Some California Cities, Your Employer Must Consider Rehiring You.
Sona Sulakian Intern
vishnu vijayan from Pixabay
Here's a guide to your rights.
Do I get priority in the rehiring process?
California is an at-will employment state, meaning that your employer can let you go at any time for any reason as long as you are paid your earned wages, including any unused sick or vacation days. But employers - at least the decent ones - often do give preference to laid off employees once rehiring begins. So, you should ask your employer if this will be the case.
If your employer isn’t helpful, some California cities have passed emergency laws giving laid off workers priority in the rehiring process.
What cities have passed laws to help workers?
San Franciscans have the right to be rehired (called “Right to Reemployment”) under a recently passed short-term San Francisco emergency law. The law requires large employers (those with 100 or more employees) to rehire their workers laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid soaring unemployment rates, the law is a welcome measure.
Since the city declared a public health emergency on February 25, restaurants, retailers, hotels, catering companies, and car dealerships were among the employers that laid off workers.
Similarly, a Los Angeles law took effect on June 14 that requires certain employers to offer priority hiring for laid off workers. Covered employers must send offer letters to the laid off workers for positions they’re qualified for that become available.
What makes one "qualified?"
Qualified means a worker either held the same or similar position before being laid off, or can become qualified with the same training offered to a new hire. Covered employers include airports, commercial property owners, event centers, and hotels.
My former employer is hiring new employees to replace the laid off workers. What can I do?
Despite these new laws, not all employees have to rehire former staffers. If your employer received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds, your employer is not required to rehire the same laid-off workers. PPP only states that the loan will be forgiven if at least 75% of the amount is spent on employees. That said, PPP does have incentives for businesses to hire back workers and to bring back workers who were furloughed.
So, what rights do I have?
In San Francisco and LA, if you are not rehired for your former position, you can sue your former employer.
In LA, you can sue for "hiring and job reinstatement rights, actual damages (such as lost pay and benefits) or statutory damages of $1,000 (whichever is greater), and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs."
In San Francisco, one can sue for:
- Hiring and reinstatement rights
- Back pay for each day of the violation
- Front pay for each day during which the violation will continue
- Value of the benefits the eligible employee would have received
- Reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
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