A group of displaced janitors just won a major victory. This month the California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in SEIU-USWW v. Preferred Building Services, Inc., leaving in place an appellate court decision that affirms the rights of janitorial workers under the Displaced Janitor Opportunity Act (“DJOA”).
The DJOA is an essential law that ensures that janitorial workers have the job security they deserve. If a building owner or manager terminates their contract with a contractor providing janitorial services, any successor contractor hired within 30-days must retain many of the janitorial workers employed when the contract ends for a sixty-day transition period. If the janitorial workers continue to perform well, the new contractor must then keep them on permanently. This law is a vital piece of legislation that helps janitorial workers have stable and fair working conditions.
In SEIU-USWW, a group of janitors sued the contractor who replaced their employer (also a contracting agency) for failing to retain them as employees. The plaintiffs’ employer had tried to avoid their obligations under the DJOA by effectively terminating all of the janitors they employed three days before the official end of their contract with the building. The defendant then argued that since there were no janitors employed at the time that the contract ended, the next contractor did not have to retain any of the original janitorial staff.
The court did not buy these evasive arguments. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision that the original contractor’s contract ended the last day that the janitors provided services, regardless of the date specified in their agreement with the building owner. The appellate court then upheld the summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff janitors. The defendant contractor appealed, but the California Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, instead choosing to leave this victory for janitorial workers undisturbed.
Now that the appeal has been denied, the appellate court’s ruling is final. This appellate court’s decision, and the California Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal on the case, should serve as a reminder to employers that they can’t get away with end-runs around worker protections. For employers that try to get around their statutory obligations, workers’ advocates are ready to fight back, empowered by strong statutory protections.
If you are a janitorial worker and have been terminated or forced to resign after a change in contractors, please contact Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C..
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