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Hotel Worker Retention Ordinance

Hotel Worker Retention Ordinance

On December 10, 2019, the Board of Port Commissioners adopted an ordinance regarding hotel worker retention upon change of ownership or operation of hotels on Port property. The agenda item and related attachments can be viewed here. The ordinance went into effect on January 10, 2020 (the 31st day after approval) and can be viewed here.


The Port has approximately 18 hotels along San Diego Bay. Hotels and other businesses enhance the waterfront, promote commerce and recreation, create vibrant experiences, stimulate positive economic impacts for the State and local community (including thousands of good paying jobs), and bolster the robust regional tourism and hospitality industry. Additionally, as a self-funding agency – the Port does not assess or collect taxes – the Port’s hotel leases (along with other sources) generate revenue that the Port reinvests back into the San Diego Bay waterfront to provide public benefits – including lower-cost visitor and recreational facilities – such as parks, piers, boat launches, public safety, environmental protection, arts and activation, infrastructure and more. 

Many public agencies have passed laws or others forms of regulation addressing the retention of hotel workers when a hotel changes owners or operators. Those jurisdictions have stated that changes in ownership, control, or operation of hotels occur frequently in the hotel industry and can trigger mass layoffs of hotel workers and displace employees who are skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced in providing a safe, clean, and enjoyable experience for visitors.

At its October 8, 2019 public meeting, the Board of Port Commissioners directed Port staff to prepare a draft ordinance on hotel worker retention upon change of ownership or operation of hotels on Port property. After that, Port staff conducted outreach to all interested stakeholders.

 What is the Hotel Worker Retention Ordinance?

Patterned after similar ordinances from other jurisdictions, the Hotel Worker Retention Ordinance can be summarized as follows:

  • Triggered when a hotel on Port property changes owners or operators through sale, assignment, transfers, or otherwise
  • New hotel employer shall offer employment to existing hotel workers for at least 90 days from change in control, subject to any applicable federal, state or local law and regulation relating to eligibility for employment
  • New hotel employer can only terminate such employees for cause during the 90-day retention period
  • Workers who believe the ordinance has been violated may sue the new employer (the Port is not responsible for enforcement)
  • The ordinance does not create any cause of action against the Port, nor limit employee rights it may otherwise have
  • If a portion of a hotel is closed for renovations or otherwise, it requires existing hotel workers to be hired for at least 90 days in order of seniority to fill the needed positions, with other existing workers being hired for at least 90 days upon reopening of the closed portions of the hotel