Can grocers be required to offer workers a “hero wage”? – FindLaw

Millennium grocery shopping

Many city governments on the West Coast believe that frontline workers at large grocery stores deserve bonuses for their services during the pandemic.

But instead of just encouraging employers to raise workers’ wages, as many of them did during the early days of the pandemic, elected officials in those cities are seeking to pass decrees demanding that employers do so.

I became Seattle The first city to take this step When the city council voted 8-0 on Jan.25 to require grocery stores to pay an additional $ 4 workers per hour for the duration of the pandemic.

Long Beach, California, might be next. On January 19, Long Beach City Council gave preliminary approval to a decree requiring all grocery stores that employ at least 300 people to give them $ 4 an hour each. “The hero pays.” The decree, which calls for wages to be raised until sunset after 120 days, will become official after the council gives it a second reading on February 2.

Meanwhile, many other California cities – including Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the proposed increase is $ 5 an hour – are thinking hard.

There are no federal requirements

The idea of ​​a risk allowance isn’t new – no US Department of Labor Classifies it as “additional pay for the performance of a risky duty or work involving physical hardship.” However, the Ministry of Labor does not regulate a hazard pay or require employers to provide a hazard pay.

When the coronavirus pandemic broke out in 2020, the idea of ​​a risk allowance was floated in several federal relief packages – the CARES Act, the HEROES Act, the HEALS Act, and the Final Stimulus Act in December – but was dropped from all of them. Several countriesHowever, she used CARES money to create risk payment programs, some of which have expired.

The Groceries Association brings the lawsuit

What is new about the municipal risk compensation measures on the West Coast is that they do not involve public funds. It requires private sector employers to provide additional funds. To justify the decree, city officials say the grocery industry is doing well financially as people stay home and shun restaurants.

Can they do that? It’s hard to get a firm answer, but that’s what the US Department of Labor says FAQ page On risk pay requirements: “Issues such as risk pay are usually specifically identified between employers and employees from their authorized representatives. State or local laws may also impose other obligations. “

This last part may be worth repeating: state or local laws may impose obligations.

That didn’t stop the California Grocery Association from trying to stop the push-pull bid in Long Beach. The CGA sued Long Beach City Council on January 20, claiming the decree violated the constitutional requirement that people of similar status should be treated alike – it singles out specific grocers and ignores other groups. The CGA also claims the law is preemptive under the National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of the collective bargaining process.

On January 22, US District Judge Dolly MG ruled that the case may continue to dismiss CGA’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop enactment of the law. Next court date is February 18th.

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