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City resolves first case under new ‘just cause’ law

Brooklyn case involves Subway franchise at Kings Plaza

December 14, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) has successfully resolved its first case under the city’s new “just cause” law, which makes it illegal for fast food employers to fire or lay off workers, or reduce their hours by more than 15 percent, without just cause or a legitimate economic reason. 

The settlement is a result of DCWP’s investigation into a Subway franchise in the Kings Plaza Shopping Center that illegally fired two employees in August 2021. The employees, who are a couple and neither of whom had any previous disciplinary action on file, were fired with no progressive discipline or written explanation after they unexpectedly could not work a single scheduled shift, according to DCWP.

 “Brooklyn is home to thousands of hard-working fast food workers who were there for us throughout the pandemic. They deserve predictable schedules, guaranteed shifts, and protection from being fired on a whim,” said DCWP Commissioner Peter A. Hatch. 

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 “It’s 2021, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The least employers can do is respect our rights to a fair workweek and have schedules posted in advance, availability valued, and preparations for shifts to be covered. The service industry should be no exception to reasonable protocols that other types of businesses automatically adhere to,” said former Subway employee Cameron Driver.

 “My partner, Jamarr, and I are proud that New York has protections for employees like this in place and encourages workers that are being mistreated to share their issues and genuinely make a positive impact in their work life,” he added.

 

“I’m truly impressed with the way DCWP handled our ‘just cause’ case. The whole process from start to finish was super easy. Their timeline was accurate, they were extremely helpful by updating us every step of the way, and they created a fair experience that ended up rectifying such a terrible wrong,” said former Subway employee Jamarr Goss

The settlement requires the restaurant to pay $2,200 in restitution to each of the two former employees — who did not want to be rehired because they found new jobs—and $1,600 in civil penalties. The restaurant must also implement new policies that comply with the law.

 The “just cause” law adds critical new job protections for fast food workers in addition to the existing fair scheduling protections under the City’s Fair Workweek Law. As of July 4, fast food employers:

  • Cannot fire or reduce hours without just cause. Employers must give workers who passed their probation period retraining and an opportunity to improve. They can only fire underperforming workers after giving them multiple disciplinary warnings in a year or for egregious conduct. 
  • 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. 

 

Under the Fair Workweek Law, which went into effect in November 2017, fast food employers in New York City must also give workers regular predictable schedules, two weeks’ advance notice of their work schedules covering specific dates, premium pay of between $10 and $75 for schedule changes, and the opportunity to work newly available shifts before hiring new workers. 

Fast food employers also cannot schedule workers for a morning shift the day after a night shift unless workers consent in writing and are paid a $100 premium to work the shift. 

Similarly, fast food employers must obtain workers’ written consent before adding any time to their work schedules with less than two weeks’ notice and may not penalize them for declining to work. 

DCWP’s case was handled by Supervising Investigator Juana Abreu and Enforcement Counsel Shane Crary Ross, under the supervision of Director of Investigations Elizabeth Wagoner of DCWP’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which is led by Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Holt.


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