Redwood City council passes hazard pay ordinance

in Community

The City Council of Redwood City voted in favor of requiring large grocery and drug store chains within its city to pay employees who interact with the public $5 per hour in hazard pay, effective immediately.

The temporary ordinance, set to expire on July 11, impacts grocery and drug stores in Redwood City with more than 750 employees nationwide, including Costco, CVS, Grocery Outlet, Lucky’s, Nob Hill, Rite Aid, Smart & Final, Target and Whole Foods.

Stores currently providing hazard pay — which is pay added to an employee’s current hourly salary — receive credit against the $5 mandate. Retroactive pay is not being required.

Redwood City is now among over a dozen California cities that are requiring or considering mandating hazard pay. Advocates of hazard pay say large grocery and drug stores have profited from remaining open throughout the pandemic while their employees risk exposure to COVID-19.

Daly City, Millbrae, San Mateo, and South San Francisco have all adopted hazard pay ordinances. Recently, San Carlos’ council declined to pursue an ordinance, in part citing possible legal ramifications.

The grocery store industry has been suing cities with hazard pay ordinances on the grounds that the mandate violates the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution by singling out certain businesses for regulation. The industry also says hazard pay ordinances violate legally-binding contracts reached between stores and employee unions. Daly City, Oakland, San Jose and San Leandro are among the cities that already received legal challenges, according to Redwood City staff.

Photo credit: Evgenii Goncharov/Scopio