With businesses in many sectors reopening across California as the state relaxes its COVID-19 restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill requiring employers in the hospitality and business services industries to offer new positions to employees they laid off in response to the pandemic.

Under SB 93, employers in those sectors are required to offer new positions to qualified laid-off employees within five days of when the position becomes available, through 2024. Employers covered under the bill include airports, hotels, private clubs, and event centers. The legislation also covers the janitorial, maintenance, and security services that serve those facilities. The bill requires employers to give the laid-off employees five business days to accept or decline the job offer.

The hospitality industry has been one of the sectors hardest hit economically by the pandemic. In a January report, the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that the U.S. lost about 4 million hospitality jobs in 2020.

“As we progress toward fully reopening our economy, it is important we maintain our focus on equity,” Newsom said in a statement. “SB 93 keeps us moving in the right direction by assuring hospitality and other workers displaced by the pandemic are prioritized to return to their workplace.”

The bill defines a “laid-off employee” as someone who was employed for at least six months in the year preceding Jan. 1, 2020, and “whose most recent separation from active service was due to a reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Such a reason could be a public health directive, a government shutdown order, lack of business, or another “economic, nondisciplinary reason” related to the pandemic.

Last year the California Legislature passed a similar bill, AB 3216, but Newsom vetoed it. In a message accompanying his veto, the governor wrote that AB 3216’s provisions would take effect “during any state of emergency for all layoffs, including those that may be unrelated to such emergency,” and that this would “create a confusing patchwork of requirements in different counties at different times.” He also wrote that the bill would put too onerous a burden on employers.

SB 93 includes a $6 million appropriation for the California Labor Commissioner to enforce the bill’s provisions related to worker rehiring and retention. The legislation takes effect immediately.

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