Panda, Au Bon Pain, 7-Eleven are ordered to pay $5M for violating NYC's scheduling restrictions

The operators were accused of such infractions as changing schedules less than two weeks in advance, and not paying a bonus to workers who opened a restaurant after closing it the night before.
All of Panda Express' New York City units were sanctioned. | Photo: Shutterstock

Panda Express, Au Bon Pain and a chicken restaurant inside a 7-Eleven have been ordered to pay nearly $5 million in restitution and penalties for violating New York City’s groundbreaking scheduling law.

The Fair Workweek Law obliges quick-service restaurants and retailers in the city to set work schedules at least 14 days in advance, with penalties levied on the employer for late changes. 

It also requires that employers meet escalating labor needs by increasing the hours of current workers before recruiting new hires, and that employees give their consent before being scheduled to open a business after closing it the night before. The “clopening” measure, as the provision is called, is intended to ensure that a staff member has an adequate opportunity to sleep.

An employee who agrees to be scheduled for a clopening is entitled to a bonus each time of $100.

In addition, workers’ hours cannot be extended or increased without the employees’ permission.

One of the law’s most controversial provisions is a ban on firing fast-food workers unless there is provable just cause, such as a record of chronic lateness or proof that money was taken. Nor can a quick-service place cut an employee’s hours by more than 15% unless there is a proven economic justification.

However, the no-fire stipulation and hours guarantee did not figure into the charges leveled at the three restaurant operators by the New York City Department of Labor and Consumer Protection.

All told, the three will pay $4.5 million in restitution to 2,400 workers, plus $417,000 in civil penalties.

Panda Express is required to pay about $3.5 million of the total. The funds will be distributed among the non-franchised chain’s 1,400 workers in New York City. The Asian chain was directed to pay another $8,000 in back pay to an employee who was fired after complaining about Panda’s practices.

About 950 employees of 14 Au Bon Pain units in the city will split $1.2 million in restitution payments from the bakery-café chain. The brand, a sister of Panera Bread, was also fined $108,000.

The third violator is Raise the Roost, a chicken restaurant located inside a 7-Eleven in the New York neighborhood of Greenwich Village.

"Far too many corporations and management teams take advantage of their employees by violating their Fair Workweek rights, and the lack of accountability surrounding predictable schedules is burdensome, taking away from the employee’s rights and work-life balance," City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, an advocate of the law, said in a statement."This settlement serves as a reminder that corporations would not succeed without their employees, and if they want to do business in New York City, they must follow the law.”

The Fair Workweek Law was enacted at the end of 2017. Its proponents contended that hourly workers needed more-predictable schedules so there would be less variability in their incomes from one paycheck to another. The act covered restaurants and retail establishments, though with slight variations in the requirements.

New York was only the fourth city in the nation to set scheduling restrictions on hourly workers, following San Francisco, Seattle and Emeryville, Calif. 

Laws similar to the ones passed in those jurisdictions have since popped up across the nation. Scheduling restrictions have also been a focus of negotiations between restaurants employers and unions. For instance, the labor contract hammered out between the Burgerville regional hamburger chain and the union representing staffs of five units specifies that schedules be set two months in advance.

A change in scheduling policies is also one of the asks of Starbucks Workers United, the union that has organized 340 units of the coffee chain.




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