Terranea Resort fined $3.3M for not hiring back workers

State to distribute among staff laid off from 102-acre Rancho Palos Verdes resort during pandemic

(Terranea Resort, iStock)
(Terranea Resort, iStock)

Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes has been ordered by the state to pay nearly $3.3 million in fines for not hiring back workers laid off during the pandemic shut-down.

The state labor commissioner ordered the fines against the oceanfront resort for failing to offer jobs altogether, or failing to do so in a timely manner for dozens of housekeepers, banquet servers, sous chefs, massage therapists and bartenders who were laid off when the resort closed in March 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported. The resort reopened that June.

The fines are the first response to a law passed last year that requires hotels, event centers and airport hospitality and janitorial employers to first offer positions to workers laid off because of a COVID-19 shutdown when their jobs become available again.

Labor unions said the legislation bars businesses from using the pandemic shutdown to replace older workers, including women and people of color, with younger, lower-paid staff.

“These workers invested years of service at Terranea and through no fault of their own lost their jobs due to the pandemic,” Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in a statement. “The law makes it clear that workers in the hospitality and services industries must be prioritized to return to the same or similar positions when their former employer reopens for business.”

The fines will be distributed among the workers, based on the number of days Terranea failed to offer positions to each staff member. For each day a position was open but was not offered to a former employee, the resort was fined $500, plus interest and penalties.

The 102-acre resort on the bluffs of Rancho Palos Verdes features 582 luxury rooms, eight restaurants, golf and a 50,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. It opened in 2009 on the former site for Marineland of the Pacific. https://www.terranea.com/resort/history

In a statement, Terranea Resort blamed the law’s “ambiguous and poorly-defined language,” saying more than 85 percent of staff working before the shutdown have returned.
“We demonstrate our care and concern for our associates through our deeds, not just words,” the resort said. “We strongly disagree with the Labor Commissioner’s citation, which is not a finding of fact. We are exploring all of our legal options.”

The resort has 15 days to appeal the fines to an administrative law judge.

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The fines represent the latest skirmish between the resort’s management and its workers, many of whom have been trying to unionize with the help of Unite Here Local 11. The union represents 32,000 hospitality, airport, sports arena and convention center workers in Southern California.

Long Point Development, owner of Terranea Resort, shelled out $1 million in 2019 to defeat a ballot measure that would boost minimum wage and worker safety for its employees.

In 2019, an administrative law judge also ordered Terranea rehire a cook who was illegally fired for speaking out in favor of unionizing his fellow workers. The

National Labor Relations Board ordered Terranea to pay the cook $35,000 in back wages.

That year, the resort agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by workers who demanded pay for time they spent waiting to get uniforms before each shift and being driven from a remote parking lot.

Terranea Resort accused Unite Here of using questionable tactics to force it to allow union members on the property to organize workers.

In response, the union has called for a boycott of the resort by businesses, business conferences and wedding patrons and their guests.

[Los Angeles Times] – Dana Bartholomew

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