San Jose California Approves Landmark Opportunity to Employment Law

A new employment law was approved in November, 2016 that addresses a serious unemployment problem in San Jose. The law is likely to be a model for other laws across California and the nation. Already there is a state initiative in place.

The law was enacted with the support of many San Jose civic organizations, politicians and community leaders – despite the opposition of business leaders from the South Bay.

The law’s requirements

The law requires that employers who are considering new part-time hours or work shifts first offer those hours or shifts to existing employees. Too many employers were giving the hours to new workers instead of old workers out of fear that if the old workers had too many work hours, then the employer might be required to give them work benefits and comply with other state or federal employment laws. Employers also complained that the new hours might mean having to give the existing employees new duties that the worker is not prepared to handle. The San Jose law does emphasize that the work hours should be given to “qualified” employees.

For many part-time employees, the extra hours can mean the difference between managing their finances and hustling to try to find new work – often far away from their current job.

The new law, called Opportunity to Work, takes effect on March 13, 2017. It requires that employers keep proper records to show that extra hours were offered to existing workers. As with the city’s minimum wage laws it is hoped that most employers will comply with the law, but there are remedies for those that don’t.

The law applies to companies with 36 or more employees. In San Jose, that means about 1,200 nonprofit and for-profit employers are affected. San Jose is now working on the particulars of the law. There are many open questions such as how the law will be enforced. Employers must have some sort of written verification of the additional work hour offer to the existing employee.

The new law is expected to affect about 64,00 part-time workers. Currently, San Francisco, California, and SeaTac Washington have limited opportunity to work laws. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez recently proposed a statewide Opportunity to Work Act. It is modeled on the San Jose Law. Her version of the state law would apply to California companies with 10 or more employees.