California Expands Requirements for Successor Grocery Employers
California Expands Requirements for Successor Grocery Employers

Effective January 1, 2024, California’s Assembly Bill 647 will expand recall rights for grocery workers when there is a change of control in a grocery establishment.  Prior to AB 647, existing law required an incumbent grocery employer to provide, within 15 days of execution of a transfer document, a list of eligible grocery workers. Successor grocery employers were then required to maintain a preferential hiring list of these eligible grocery workers and hire from that list for 90 days. This law did not apply to grocery stores that had ceased operations for 6 months or more before the sale or transfer.

AB 647 modifies the prior law to define “grocery establishment” as “a retail store in this state that is over 15,000 square feet in size and that sells primarily household foodstuffs for offsite consumption, including the sale of fresh produce, meats, poultry, fish, deli products, dairy products, canned foods, dry foods, beverages, baked foods, or prepared foods. Other household supplies or other products shall be secondary to the primary purpose of food sales. A distribution center owned and operated by a grocery establishment and used primarily to distribute goods to or from its owned stores shall be considered a grocery establishment, regardless of its square footage.” In addition, the definition of grocery establishment now specifically excludes a retail store that has ceased operations for 12 months or more.

AB 647 also serves to incorporate a role for collective bargaining union representatives by requiring an incumbent grocery employer to also provide the list of eligible grocery workers to any collective bargaining representatives. The successor grocery employer may obtain the list of eligible grocery workers from a collective bargaining representative if the incumbent grocery employer does not provide the information within 15 days.

AB 647 prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an employee for seeking to enforce their rights. The bill also creates a private right of action—it authorizes an employee or employee representative to bring an action in superior court. Courts may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to the employee or employee representative who prevails in an enforcement action.

The bill also authorizes the Labor Commissioner to enforce the provisions and would establish remedies in that regard. The bill would make an employer, agent of any employer, or other person who violates or causes to be violated the provisions, subject to civil penalties and liquidated damages.

As with several other laws passed during the 2023-2024 legislative cycle, this bill regulates a specific industry and reflects a strong union influence.

This publication is published by the law firm of Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP. The publication is intended to present an overview of current legal trends; no article should be construed as representing advice on specific, individual legal matters. Articles may be reprinted with permission and acknowledgment. ECJ is a registered service mark of Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP. All rights reserved.


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