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Newsom Signs Bill to Aid Hospitality Workers Displaced by COVID-19

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In a step toward reopening California’s economy, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 93 on April 16. The bill aims to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on unemployed Californians by establishing a policy that requires employers in the hospitality and business services industries to rehire former employees laid off due to the pandemic.

“As we progress toward fully reopening our economy, it is important we maintain our focus on equity,” Newsom said in a press release. “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.”

For employees who worked six months or more in 2019 and were affected by the termination of their employment due to the outbreak of the pandemic, SB 93 mandates that their former employers offer new positions to these workers, should they meet the necessary qualifications for these roles.

Categories of businesses that must follow the policy include airports, hotels and event centers such as stadiums and concert halls. The bill also applies to employers in security and custodial services.

SB 93 follows Assembly Bill 3216, an original framework that was vetoed by Newsom last year amid concerns that it would apply too broadly to non-emergency related instances.

“I recognize the real problem this bill is trying to fix [—] to ensure that workers who have been laid off due to the COVID[-]19 pandemic have certainty about their rehiring and job security,” Newsom said in his veto message. “But, as drafted, its prescriptive provisions would take effect during any state of emergency for all layoffs, including those that may be unrelated to such [an] emergency.”

As a result, SB 93 differentiates itself from its predecessor through key language, specifying that an employee’s “most recent separation from active service was due to a reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a public health directive, government shutdown order, lack of business, a reduction in force, or other economic, nondisciplinary reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The bill is set to provide additional relief for former Orange County hospitality workers displaced by the pandemic as unemployment rates steadily decline. The county’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.7% to 6.4% between February and March, according to a report released by the California Employment Development Department on April 16.

In addition, the county’s leisure and hospitality sectors gained 9,800 jobs over the same period, accounting for the largest increase in any industry.

Orange County’s recent transition to the orange tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy is also expected to bolster employment as restrictions on businesses are modified and lifted.

Newsom has announced that California’s economy could fully reopen as early as June 15, contingent on COVID-19 hospitalization and vaccination statistics as well as any necessary public health measures.

SB 93 will remain in place through Dec. 31, 2024.


Ariana Keshishian is a City News Apprentice for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ankeshis@uci.edu.