STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Thanks to a new law, fast food workers can’t be fired from their jobs without just cause.
Under the new law — which goes into effect on July 4 — fast food employers can’t fire or lay off workers, or reduce their hours by more than 15% without just cause or a legitimate economic reason, said Sandra Abeles, the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) acting commissioner.
“For too long, fast food workers—a predominately minority and female workforce—have been treated as if they were disposable and yet they have been there for us on the frontlines throughout the pandemic,” said Abeles. “These workers deserve better and no worker should be left jobless for unjust reasons – ever. This vital law will bring additional stability to the lives of these low-wage workers and ensure they can’t be fired on a whim.”
According to DCWP, the new just cause law offers the following protections for fast food employees:
- Cannot fire or reduce hours without just cause. Employers must give workers who passed their probation period retraining and an opportunity to improve and can only fire underperforming workers after giving them multiple disciplinary warnings in a year or for egregious misconduct.
- Cannot lay off current workers except for economic reasons. Layoffs must be in reverse order of seniority, with the longest-serving workers laid off last.
- Must give a written explanation for firing, reduction of hours, or layoff.
- Must give laid-off or current workers priority to work newly available shifts. Employers must advertise open shifts on posters in the restaurant and by text or email. Employers can only hire new workers if no laid-off or current NYC workers accept the shifts by the posted deadline.
Fast food workers can immediately enforce their rights in court through a private right of action. However, DCWP will begin enforcing the just cause law on Sept. 2. Beginning in Jan. 2022, workers also can request to resolve their complaints through binding arbitration by a DCWP administered panel of arbitrators.