California Labor Commissioner Cites Airport Catering Company $1.2 Million for not Timely Rehiring Workers Laid Off During COVID-19 Pandemic
Los Angeles—The Labor Commissioner’s Office has cited Flying Food Group more than $1.2 million for failing to timely rehire 21 employees who had been laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic once the caterer increased its business operations, and began hiring staff, as required by law.
The impacted employees included 18 employees at Flying Food Group’s Los Angeles International Airport site and three employees at its San Francisco International Airport site who had been employed as station attendants, dishwashers, drivers, porters, equipment liquor set-up attendants, cooks and cook helpers.
“This law was intended to end the displacement of workers during the pandemic due to no fault of their own and that’s exactly what we are pursuing in this case,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “Workers invested up to 10 years in this employer and the employer failed to rehire them pursuant to the law. We will continue to investigate until workers are made whole.”
The Labor Commissioner’s Office started its investigation into the Inglewood-based airport catering company in November 2022 after receiving Reports of Labor Law Violation from Unite Here Local 11 on behalf of laid-off workers. The workers’ complaint stated they were not offered an opportunity to return to their jobs based on seniority when the catering group increased business operations in 2021. The investigation included interviews with workers, depositions from Flying Food Group’s Human Resources managers, and an audit of payroll records from April 16, 2021 to April 20, 2023.
The investigation determined that Flying Food Group LLC DBA Flying Food Group had violated the Right to Recall law and the Labor Commissioner’s Office cited the catering company $1,190,500 in liquidated damages, $2,100 in civil penalties, and $27,730 in assessed interest for a total of $1,220,330. Liquidated damages and assessed interest will be paid to the workers upon collection. Civil penalties go to the State’s general fund.
The law entitles each worker whose rights are violated liquidated damages of $500 per day until the violation is cured, as well as civil penalties against the employer of $100 for each employee whose rights are violated. Any employee suffering unlawful retaliation for asserting recall rights may also be awarded back pay, front pay benefits and reinstatement.
The Right to Recall law went into effect on April 16, 2021, and runs through December 31, 2024. Covered workers include employees at hotels or private clubs with 50 or more guest rooms, airports, airport service providers and event centers. Also included are laid-off employees engaged in building services such as janitorial, maintenance and security services at retail and commercial buildings.
The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (California Labor Commissioner’s Office) combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.” The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations, so workers and employers understand legal protections and obligations, as well as the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.
Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161
Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: MakeItFair@dir.ca.gov