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On January 27, 2021, the City Council of Montebello, California, passed an ordinance titled “Premium Pay for Grocery and Drug Store Workers Ordinance.” Montebello is an incorporated city located in Los Angeles County, California. The ordinance requires employers to provide grocery and drug store workers with premium pay of $4.00 for each hour worked. The ordinance took effect immediately and expires in 180 days, unless otherwise extended.

Employers Covered

The ordinance applies to grocery stores and drug stores. The ordinance defines “drug stores” as stores that devote 70 percent or more of their business to retailing a general range of drugs, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and related products, including fresh or packaged food products. Grocery stores are entities that devote 70 percent or more of their business to retailing fresh or packaged food products.

Number of Employees Required for Coverage

In order to be covered by the ordinance, the grocery store or retail pharmacy must employ 300 or more workers nationally and at least 15 employees per grocery store or retail pharmacy in Montebello.

Eligible Employees

To be eligible, employees must perform work for the hiring entity in Montebello. Managers, supervisors, and confidential employees are not eligible for premium pay.

Employee Protections / Prohibited Retaliation

Employers cannot reduce an employee’s pay or opportunity for compensation because of the ordinance. The ordinance also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising rights under the ordinance.

Posted Notice

The ordinance requires covered hiring entities to post a written notice of rights in a location that employees use for breaks. Hiring entities also must make the notice available in an easily accessible electronic format, such as a smartphone application or an online web portal. Employers must make the notice available in English and the primary language used by employees.

The notice must inform employees about the right to premium pay, the prohibition against retaliation, and the employees’ right to bring a civil lawsuit for failure to pay premium pay and/or retaliation.

Maintaining Records

Employers must maintain records demonstrating compliance with the ordinance. Employers must maintain those records for two years.

Private Causes of Action and Remedies

A covered employee may bring a civil cause of action to enforce the ordinance. Remedies include reinstatement, front pay in lieu of reinstatement with full payment of unpaid compensation, interest, and liquidated damages in an amount up to twice the unpaid compensation. In addition, the employer is subject to a reasonable penalty for retaliatory conduct. A prevailing employee also is entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.

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