The decade-long fight for fast food workers to have the same rights as other employees continues to be successful.
On July 4, the ‘just cause law’ for fast food workers goes into effect. New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Acting Commissioner Sandra Abeles announced last week that all resources for employers and employees regarding the law are now available.
“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,” stated DCWP Acting Commissioner Sandra 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.”
Under the law, fast food employers can’t fire, layoff or reduce workers’ hours by more than 15% without just cause or well-defined economic reasons. It also adds new job protections for fast food workers in addition the city’s Fair WorkWeek Law’s fair scheduling protections.
32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg stated that workers who serve the public should be compensated just like other employees.
“The 175,000 members of 32BJ SEIU are proud to have fought alongside fast food workers to win historic just cause protections that will help turn fast food jobs into good jobs with stable hours,” Bragg said. “The workers who keep New Yorkers fed shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll be able to put food on their own tables because they can be fired or have their hours cut for any reason or no reason at all. Just cause protections for fast food workers means that bosses can no longer use at-will employment to keep workers silent in the face of injustice.”
Under the new law, once workers get past their probation period, employers must provide period training and a chance to improve. And underperforming workers can only be fired after multiple warnings in a year or for “egregious misconduct.” Employers can only lay off employees for economic reasons and they must go in reverse seniority with the longest-serving employees going last.
Employers must also give a written explanation for reducing hours, laying off, or firing an employee.
“With its new ‘just cause’ law, New York is leading the nation in providing fast food workers badly needed relief from unfair firings,” stated Paul Sonn, state policy program director at the National Employment Law Project. “And the city’s outstanding Department of Consumer and Worker Protection can be counted on to help employers and workers understand their rights under this important new law.”
“After facing unimaginable risks during the pandemic, fast food workers in NYC will no longer have to toil in fear that a manager’s bad mood will mean the end of their livelihood,” added Rachel Deutsch, director of worker justice campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy. “New York City’s “just cause” protections will have an immediate impact because fast food workers have been powerfully asserting their rights under the Fair Workweek Law and DCWP has been a national leader in holding lawbreaking companies like Chipotle accountable.
“Other cities should follow suit and protect low-wage workers from arbitrary firings.”