The Santa Monica City Council has adopted an ordinance requiring large grocery store chains and drug retailers to provide their essential workers an additional $5 an hour in light of their increased health risks throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency as these businesses have remained open and in service to the community. This “hero pay” requirement aligns with a similar provision recently adopted for unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County as well as in the cities of West Hollywood, Long Beach, and Los Angeles.
“Hero pay is about boosting wages in light of the elevated health risks grocery store and drug store chain employees experience every time they report to work indoors, interacting with large numbers of people and when they return home to their families,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “This is a much-deserved recognition of the sacrifices these vital essential personnel have endured for the last year.”
Santa Monica’s hero pay ordinance is an urgency ordinance making it effective immediately with the following provisions:
- Applies to operators of retail grocery stores, retail drug stores, and large retail stores that are publicly traded or that employ 300 or more workers nationwide, and employ more than 10 employees per store;
- Requires retail grocery stores, retail drug stores, and large retail stores (85,000 square feet or more) that dedicate more than 10% of their floor space to grocery or drug sales to pay employees an extra $5 per hour in hero pay;
- Provides store operators with a credit against the required hero pay for voluntarily provided hazard pay;
- Establishes enforcement mechanisms, including a prohibition on retaliation against any employee who seeks to enforce the hero pay provisions, administrative fines, and private causes of action for employees; and
- Provides that the emergency ordinance will sunset after 120 days.
Hero pay is immediately required for the employees of businesses meeting the above requirements, but there is a grace period through April 12 for any liability resulting from nonpayment, so long as all accrued pay is paid by the next pay date after April 12. The City will circulate legal notices to the applicable Santa Monica businesses to notify employees of their right to hero pay compensation.