Skip to content

New Legal Protections for New York City Fast Food Workers

January 21st, 2021 Victoria Breese

New York City fast food workers have new protections under a law signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio this month. Now, fast food workers may not be fired without just cause or a legitimate economic reason. Addressing the difficulty the restaurant industry has faced during the Coronavirus pandemic, de Blasio stated “a strong, fair recovery starts with protecting working people . . . These bills will provide crucial job stability and protections for fast food workers on the front lines.”

When Fast Food Workers May Be Fired

Eligible New York City employers now need just cause or a bonafide economic reason in order to fire a fast food worker. The law defines just cause as an employee’s “failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or engaging in misconduct that is harmful to the fast food employer’s legitimate business interests.” Additionally, when an employer lays off employees for a bona fide economic reason, layoffs must occur in reverse order of seniority. So, if your employer lays you off for an economic reason, your employer must first have laid off all workers lower in seniority than you. Another important aspect of the law is that employers may not reduce fast food workers’ hours by more than 15% without just cause or a bona fide economic reason. This law will impact fast food chains in New York City with thirty or more locations. 

Praise and Criticisms of the New Law

Many workers-rights advocates have praised the new law. For example, Kyle Bragg, the president of a service workers’ union, stated “there are nearly 70,000 fast food workers in New York City who are on the front lines of the pandemic but who, until now, didn’t have economic security because they could be fired or have their hours cut for no reason and without recourse.” Others have been more critical of the law as the restaurant industry tries to recover from the pandemic. For example, Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, said  “It is outrageous and unacceptable for the city council to choose this devastating moment to further hamstring the business operations of New York City’s restaurants by passing ‘just cause’ legislation.” Despite these criticisms, the law will still be enforced and likely affect many employers: according to industry statistics, the fast food worker turnover rate is as high as 150%. With so many workers regularly leaving fast food restaurants, employers must ensure that firings, layoffs, and hour reductions comply with the new law.

Seek Legal Assistance Today 

If you have been wrongfully terminated from your fast food job, seek legal assistance from the Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City and Livingston, NJ. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.