Victory for Janitors as Appellate Court Enforces their Right to Retention of Employment

On April 14, 2015, Preferred Building Services, Inc. (“Preferred”) began providing janitorial services at a residential complex.  Preferred was what is known as a “successor” janitorial contractor, taking over after the prior contractor, VPM Maintenance Management, LLC (“VPM”), terminated its janitorial contract.  The janitors VPM previously employed at the complex asserted their right to retention of employment under the Displaced Janitors Opportunity Act (“DJOA”), but Preferred refused to retain any of them.

In May 2015, a class of 33 janitors and their union—SEIU United Service Workers West—sued Preferred for violations of the DJOA and Displaced Worker Protection Act (“DWPA”).  The DJOA requires contractors awarded contracts for janitorial or building maintenance services to retain certain employees that work for the terminated contractor for a 60-day transition employment period, and to offer those workers continued employment if their performance during the 60-day period is satisfactory.

In November 2018, the trial court granted the janitors’ motion for summary judgement, which Preferred appealed.  Preferred tried to argue that since the janitors resigned and received a modest severance in exchange for releasing claims against VPM, they were not entitled to the rights provided by the DJOA and DWPA.

On October 15, 2021, the California Court of Appeal disagreed with Preferred and affirmed the trial court’s holding, finding that under the DJOA and DWPA, the time of contract termination is the last day the terminated contractor actually provides janitorial services.  Further, because the janitors were all employed on the last day VPM provided services, they were entitled to the protections of the DJOA and DWPA.

In an industry where the employer contractor can change frequently, and sometimes seemingly overnight, this type of job security for janitorial employees is immeasurable.  In ruling in favor of the janitors and their union, the Court of Appeal recognized that protecting these janitors was the goal of the legislature when creating these laws.

Weinberg Roger and Rosenfeld represented the janitors and their union in this action.  For further information regarding these or other worker retention laws, contact your labor law counsel.

By Katie McDonagh | January 7, 2022

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