The Hyatt Regency in Downtown Long Beach has been ordered to pay $4.8 million to a group of 25 employees who were laid off because of the pandemic but not offered their jobs back when business rebounded.

The California Labor Commissioner’s office announced the fine Tuesday, saying the hotel violated the state’s Right to Recall law, which acted as a pandemic-era safety net for laid-off workers in the hospitality and building services industries.

The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in April 2021, required employers in those industries to offer jobs back to previous employees in a timely manner once business picked up.

The $4.8 million citation issued against the Hyatt is for 8,983 aggregate days of violations under the law, for which each of the 25 employees is owed $500 per day. The money will be paid to the group of restaurant workers, event servers, bartenders, housekeepers, turndown attendants, cashiers and stewards who were laid off, the commissioner’s office said.

“Some of these employees had as much as 24 years of experience, and were suddenly out of work due to a public health emergency,” Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower said in a statement Tuesday. “The employer failed to offer them their old jobs back in compliance with the law.”

Hotel management, nor Hyatt’s corporate office immediately responded to requests for comment.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office began its investigation into the Hyatt Regency in September 2022 after receiving “numerous” complaints, the announcement states. The investigation included issuing subpoenas, interviewing workers and conducting depositions of human resources managers.

“Being laid off during the pandemic has been devastating for me and my family,” Rigoberto Villagrana, who was laid off after working at the hotel since 1996, said in a statement issued by Unite Here Local 11, a union that represents thousands of hotel and other hospitality workers.

“We’ve struggled to pay our mortgage and keep food on the table,” Villagrana continued. “I am really glad to see the state stepping in to make sure Hyatt Regency complies with the law.”

The union has been locked in heated contract negotiations throughout the region on behalf of hotel workers, with sporadic strikes occurring at numerous hotels, including the Hotel Maya in Downtown Long Beach.

“The Hyatt Regency in Long Beach has treated its veteran workers like they are disposable,” Unite Here Local 11 co-President Kurt Petersen said in a statement, adding that the behavior is “immoral. I commend the Labor Commissioner for … showing that our worker protection laws have real teeth.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.