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NYC eyes restrictions on firing fast-food workers

Employees could only be discharged for what arbitrators adjudge to be “just cause.”
Photograph: Shutterstock

New York City is considering a first-of-its-kind proposal to limit the circumstances under which a quick-service restaurant employee can be fired.

The measure would also prohibit QSRs from cutting an employee’s hours by more than 15%.

The proposal, introduced to the City Council last week, is intended to protect quick-service employees from being discharged or having their hours dropped on a whim. QSR employers would be required, if challenged on a termination, to prove the employee had been alerted that his or her performance was unsatisfactory; that remedial training was offered; and that the situation had been fully investigated before the individual was fired. 

If an arbitrator decides the termination was not justified, the employee would be reinstated with back pay, and the employer would be fined $2,500.

Cutting hours by more than 15% would result in a fine of $500.

The proposal in its current form would be binding only on QSRs, with no obligation imposed on other employers or type of restaurants.

The bill has the backing of the labor advocates behind the so-called living wage, or mandated pay of at least $15 an hour. The minimum wage in New York City rose to that rate on Dec. 31 for restaurants and other employers with at least 11 employees. Smaller businesses are required to pay no less than $13.50 per hour.

New York City has often been an originator of restaurant-related legislation that eventually rolls across the nation. Menu labeling, smoking bans and trans fat prohibitions all originated there.

The discharge limitations were introduced by Councilman Brad Lander, with the reported backing of Councilwoman Adrienne Adams.

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