Worker Retention Ordinance Protects Grocery Workers

Good news for grocery store workers.  In California Grocers Association v. City of Los Angeles, (2011) 52 Cal.4th 177, the California Supreme Court ruled that when a grocery chain buys an existing store 15,000 square feet or larger, it cannot automatically terminate the store’s employees.  Rather, it must first abide by procedural safeguards.  These safeguards include: honoring the employees’ right to a mandatory successor hiring list, a mandatory “for cause” standard for termination, and a written employee evaluation at the conclusion of a 90-day transition period.  Even though the Ordinance does not require that any employee be retained, if an employee’s performance is satisfactory, the employer must “consider” offering her continued employment.  For those workers covered by a union, the union and the employer may agree on terms that are better than the Ordinance’s terms.

Grocery employees will be glad to know that this decision supports a city’s right to require employers to temporarily preserve the status quo during transition of grocery store ownership, reducing the likelihood of immediate mass layoffs.  In this case, the City recognized that supermarkets function as community anchors.  The terms of the Ordinance were important to ensure stability and continuity at these stores.  Disruptions at these stores would have a large impact on the community.

The California Supreme Court’s ruling supporting this worker retention Ordinance may affect other cities that may be considering implementing similar laws.  Other workers in other industries should consider advocating for similar legal protections.

Russell Naymark

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