By Jack Tuckner, Esq.
The city of New York recently passed a law requiring “Just Cause” Protections for Fast Food Workers. The NYC Council passed legislation in December 2020 granting fast food workers union-like protections, entirely eliminating traditional “at-will” employment rules, so starting in July 2021 when the law takes effect, if you work at a major fast food restaurant chain with at least 30 locations in the US, you can no longer be fired for any old reason, or no reason at all any time your boss feels like it.
This new 2021 law requires that all terminations from employment must be for legitimate “just cause” or “bona fide” economic reasons, and it’s on the employer to prove it. Additionally, the new law requires these fast food restaurants to engage in progressive discipline, which means that before you’re fired the employer must try various levels of warnings and write ups depending on the alleged infraction’s seriousness, etc., before an employee can be terminated, AND these write ups must “sunset” or expire and disappear from the employee’s record after one year. Finally, the new law allows discharged employees to take their case to arbitration through a NY City created panel, or the City can bring the claims to a trial at New York City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (“OATH”). So called “just cause” is defined in the law as egregious misconduct or serious performance issues, so the bottom line is that you have to be accused of something bad for the firing to be considered legit, not just because you rubbed your manager the wrong way or made one little mistake. For example, did the employee know that a policy was violated, was there adequate training, did the employer use reasonable progressive discipline, was there a fair, objective investigation, and did the employee actually violate a policy.
This new ground-breaking NYC law also limits when an employer may lay off an employee or reduce her hours to only situations when legitimate bad economic circumstances exist, which is defined as “the full or partial closing of operations” or other changes in response to a reduction in business. Layoffs must be done in reverse order of seniority, AND recently laid off workers must be offered hours to work before offered to current working employees. The employer must also give any discharged employee a written explanation with the “precise reasons” for the discharge within five days of the employee’s termination. There is a 30-day probationary period when all new employees may be discharged for any old nondiscriminatory reason, but after that period, the new protections kick in. Even before July 2021, if you believe that you or a loved one is being treated differently in the workplace due to discrimination, harassment or retaliation, please feel free to contact this law firm for a consultation at no charge to you. This is Jack Tuckner, a NY based employee rights lawyer. Please give a like to this video, and pleas subscribe to this YouTube channel for the latest employee rights news delivered right to your inbox hot off the press. Stay safe and be well. Thank you for listening.