Rahm Emanuel, the Obama Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayor, is quoted as saying “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” It is apparent the California state legislature has taken those words to heart as evidenced by a flurry of employee-leaning bills following the legislative session ending August 28, 2020 and one that causes significant concern is Assembly Bill 3216.

AB 3216, called the “Right to Recall” bill, requires employers who operate hotel, private clubs, event centers, airport hospitality or service, janitorial service, building maintenance or security service to give preference to laid off employee when rehiring notwithstanding employee performance history or the related factors. The statutory language requires covered employers not only to offer to rehire employees who held the same position, but also to offer the position to any laid-off employee who “is or can be qualified for the position.” In other words, the language of the legislation appears to require the employer to offer almost any position to employee by order of seniority as virtually any employee “is or can be qualified” for a given position given sufficient training!

Not surprisingly, the bill has garnered significant union support but is opposed by a substantial number of California business organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce. Notably, the bill passed the Assembly in June of this year but only after 18 legislators chose to abstain from voting and later passed the Senate Labor Committee by the narrow margin of a 3-2 vote. Time will tell whether it makes it to, and is signed by, the Governor however there is some precedent for these types of bills as both Oakland and Los Angeles city councils, as well as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, have passed similar ordinances in response to Covid-19 layoffs.