Defying Industry, California Lawmakers Vote for Employer-Paid Food Training

The California Legislature is moving to require employers to compensate food service employees for the cost of food safety training mandated by the state’s public health laws. If signed into law, the legislation would overturn a common practice in which employees cover the expense of obtaining the certification themselves.

The measure, Senate Bill 476, which cleared the State Senate by a wide margin in May, passed the Assembly on Tuesday, 56 to 18. After a Senate vote on concurrence with amendments, the bill will be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has not signaled whether he will sign it or veto it. Asked for comment for this article, the governor’s office said it had nothing to report.

The bill’s sponsors cited a New York Times investigation published in January that showed how the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying group, raises millions of dollars from workers through the fees charged by a food safety training program it administers, ServSafe. The most widely used safety program in the country for food and beverage handling, it is used by waiters, cooks, bartenders and other retail food workers.

The restaurant association, a business league representing over 500,000 businesses — along with state affiliates, including the California Restaurant Association — is frequently involved in political battles against increasing the minimum wage or the subminimum wage paid to tipped workers in most states.

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