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House passes recall protections for laid-off hospitality workers

A bill requiring shuttered hospitality businesses to notify laid-off workers when they reopen, and rehire them to positions for which they are qualified before turning to new workers, has passed the House.

Sponsored by Rep. Andrew Carlson (DFL-Bloomington), HF39 would apply to event centers, facilities attached to event centers, hotels with over 75 guest rooms and other hospitality businesses.

The bill was passed 70-61 Thursday and now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) is the sponsor.

"This common-sense legislation will help stabilize an important part of the Minnesota economy as businesses and workers alike recover from COVID-19," Carlson said.

Carlson said hospitality workers have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, and other bill supporters said many of these workers are disproportionately women and people of color.

Rep. Kaela Berg (DFL-Burnsville) said big hotel chains and event centers should not be allowed to take advantage of the pandemic to bring in workers at entry-level wages.

The bill would apply to employees who worked at least six months before Jan. 31, 2020, and would expire at the end of 2022.

Employers would be required to notify laid-off employees in writing and by email and text about all job positions that become available for which they are qualified. The employers would be required to offer positions to laid-off employees based on a preference system of qualifications and seniority.

A laid-off employee who is offered a position would have at least five business days to accept or decline the offer.

The recall provisions would also apply to businesses that have been sold but are conducting substantially similar operations.

Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) is concerned about the language that would require employers to offer positions to workers any time a job comes open. She said that being required to offer an ex-employee a job, even when he or she has already turned a job down, through 2022 would be onerous.

Other Republicans asked whether ex-employees who decline a recall option could still collect unemployment and said the House should be focused on other reopening measures.

Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) added that the five-day waiting period could hamper employers as they try to make reopening decisions.

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