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Increased Job Protection for NYC Fast Food Workers

January 27, 2021

New York City is the first major city in the United States to provide job protection to employees in the fast-food industry.

Recently, the City Council approved two groundbreaking bills that will provide job security to employees in the fast-food industry in New York City. The bills will regulate firing and layoffs of fast-food employees, protecting these employees from being fired without just cause and allowing them to appeal terminations through arbitration. Fast food restaurants will also be required to conduct layoffs due to economic reasons based on seniority. The bills apply to all fast-food chains that have at least 30 locations nationwide, including but not limited to major franchises such as McDonalds, Chipotle, Chick Fil A, Burger King, and Pop Eyes.

Fast-food workers in New York City had previously been subject to at-will employment, meaning employers could fire employees at any time, for any reason (except for protected characteristics such as race, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, etc.). Now, fast food employers cannot fire an employee without just cause. Just cause includes an employee’s failure to perform job duties or misconduct in the workplace that harms the employer’s legitimate business interests. Fast food employers would also be prevented from laying off employees absent a legitimate economic reason. Additionally, a reduction in hours of 15% would be equivalent to a termination.

City councilman Brad Lander, a sponsor of these bills, called them “a big victory for job stability and dignity,” stating, “No one should get fired on a whim, but for years this has been the norm for fast-food workers.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill on January 5th.

New York City’s regulations on firing and layoffs become the latest win for protections in the fast-food industry. In 2017, New York City adopted the Fair Workweek Law, requiring employers to provide advanced notice to employees for schedule changes. In 2018, New York City passed the Temporary Schedule Change Law, granting employees the right to two temporary schedule changes for a personal event per year, and raised minimum wage for fast food employees to $15.00 per hour.

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