On December 13th, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a sweeping pro-worker policy introduced by Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Terra Lawson-Remer to help screen out bad taxpayer-funded contractors and help shield over 1,000 for janitors, landscapers and security personnel working at County facilities against wage theft, sexual harassment, and other unfair work practices.
“We are doing the right thing by making sure the hard-working people who keep our county buildings clean, presentable and safe both inside and outside are respected and appreciated by their employers,” said Supervisor Fletcher. “As upcoming contracts for these services expire and new ones are drawn up, these new provisions will be incorporated. Today is an important step forward. I want all the janitors, landscapers and security personnel who work at County buildings to know we heard you, and we appreciate you.”
In August of this year, Supervisors Fletcher and Lawson-Remer heard the workers, stood with them in solidarity, committed to supporting their cause and now they are taking action to deliver results.
“The hardworking essential workers who keep our County’s buildings safe and clean deserve to be paid fairly and treated with dignity and respect. Janitorial and service workers, primarily women and people of color, are too often vulnerable to predatory behaviors such as wage theft and sexual harassment,” said Supervisor Lawson-Remer. With this vote, we will guarantee rights and dignity to the janitors, landscapers, and other invisible workers who keep our doors open and the lights on across our County facilities.”
The board policy will protect approximately 1,080 local janitorial, landscaping, and security employees who work for companies that contract with the County. It will also establish San Diego County as one of the first to adopt a wage theft fund to repay workers who are entitled to pay from their employer.
This policy outlines requirements for potential contractors doing business with the County to encourage that their employees receive more comprehensive benefits, a more competitive wage package, greater workplace protections, training programs, sick days, all of which reduce the risk of turnover and labor disputes.
Some of the provisions the Supervisors’ policy will add to all Requests for Proposals (RFPs) posted after December 13, 2022 are:
Wage Theft Fund
One of the most unique elements is the creation of a wage theft fund, in which the County sets aside funds from contractor budgets to help contract workers who are not paid what they are owed, allowing San Diegans to recoup income they are owed in a more timely manner.
Last year California workers filed nearly 19,000 individual claims totaling more than $338 million in stolen wages, but resolving these claims often takes longer than the legal minimum of 135 days. This delay causes additional undue burden on the workers and can lead to long term impacts like housing eviction. Five years after workers in wage theft claims, state records show only one in seven were paid their judgment in full.
Contractors will be required to participate in a wage theft fund, under which the County will set aside a portion of the contract, which will be paid out in full at the end of the contract term, provided there are no employee claims of wage theft against the contractor. The fund will be used to provide wages to employees who were not paid all wages owed in violation of the California Labor Code.
Upon a finding of wage theft by the County Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement and the opportunity for the contractor to appeal, the set aside funds will be used to pay the employee back wages owed and the cost recovery time to the County.
A finding of retaliation by the contractor as part of a wage theft complaint may result in damages being paid to the employee from the contractors set aside retention funds. If a contractor is found to have committed wage theft, they may be precluded from award of future County contracts and/or considered for debarment.
It is important that any employees working for the County of San Diego receive a fair wage. The County will establish a wage floor for service contracts based upon conducting a benchmarking analysis every five years using updated information from comparable jurisdictions with similar contracts. This proposed wage floor would increase for each year of the contract.
The wage floor will include the hourly wage, health and welfare benefits, paid days off, sick leave, and other benefits to ensure competitive salaries for those employees.
Sexual Harassment Prevention and Training Programs
The County will provide an annual training to all employees performing work under these contracts. The training will cover the role of the County Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement, worker rights, any changes to State/Federal/ local laws, how to make a complaint to the County, and any other information deemed relevant.
The contractor shall also provide all employees an orientation that includes potential consequences for perpetrators of workplace sexual harassment and assault; information to whom an employee can report cases of workplace sexual harassment and assault; community and mental health resources locally available for survivors of workplace sexual harassment or assault; and strategies to defend against sexual harassment or assault.
Changing a place of employment can be burdensome, so the policy includes provisions to help ensure contractors prioritize maintaining workers at the County location at which they performed services under the contract.
When a contractor is acquired by another entity or in any other way changes ownership, contractors will be required to establish a 90-day transition employment period for all existing employees performing work under the contract.
Labor peace agreement
To avoid potential strikes or lockouts that could impact the safety, security, and well-being of the County, its employees, and the public, a contractor will attest that they have, or will enter into, a Labor Peace Agreement with any Labor Organization that represents employees performing work under the contract upon being awarded a contract from the County, which should include provisions related to addressing labor disputes and concerted activity.
Collective bargaining agreement
When the County is evaluating bids, a contractor that has a Collective Bargaining Agreement shall receive maximum credit for this evaluation criterion.
The County currently has 21 contracts valued at over $40 million that would be affected by these new worker protections: 16 janitorial contracts among three providers, four landscaping contracts among three providers, and one security contract. These contract employees work at the County Administration Center in downtown, County Operations Center in Kearny Mesa, and County libraries and other facilities throughout the region.
This action follows the Board of Supervisors’ adoption of the Working Families Ordinance to address barriers to self-sufficiency by ensuring that individuals working on County projects or at County-owned property are paid wages that allow them to adequately provide for themselves and their families. The ordinance requires prevailing wage, a skilled and trained workforce, and paid sick leave for contractors working on County construction projects or for County lessees.
The Chief Administrative Officer will immediately begin implementing these requirements into RFPs and subsequent contracts. She will report back on the implementation status within one year.
Read the entire policy by clicking here.