- A bill that would make it more difficult to fire fast-food workers has been introduced in New York City. Council Member Brad Lander’s proposal would prohibit fast food restaurants from letting workers go without "just cause." A related bill would require fast food restaurants to conduct layoffs in reverse order of seniority.
- The move follows the release of a report indicating that a substantial number of fast-food workers believe they've been fired for unfair reasons, or no reason at all. Lander said the legislation will embolden fast-food workers to speak out about pay and workplace problems, according to The Guardian.
- An International Franchise Association spokesperson, however, told The Guardian that the organization is unsure what impact the measure might have; he also criticized the city council for repeatedly passing legislation that only applies to the quick service restaurant industry.
"At-will" employment is widespread in the U.S., generally allowing employers to fire workers for any reason except those forbidden by law such as race, sex or religion.
The New York City bill appears to be first of its kind and because the "at-will" standard is deeply entrenched in private-sector, nonunion jobs, removing it may be an uphill battle. The National Restaurant Association, for example, has reportedly suggested that it would challenge the law in court.
The move isn't surprising for the city, however. With a progressive mayor at the helm, the city recently has been pushing boundaries of employment law. This year, the city's fast-food workers rang in the new year with an increase in their minimum wage to $15 an hour. And in 2017, the city adopted its "Fair Work Week Law," banning fast-food employers from scheduling shifts with fewer than 11 hours between them and requiring employers to provide 14 days’ notice of work schedules.
New city employment laws haven't targeted fast food exclusively, either. New York City also enacted a salary history ban in 2017 that prohibits employers from requesting information about job applicants' previous pay or benefits. And beginning April 2019, city employers will have to provide sexual harassment training.
Some proposals, however, haven't enjoyed the same momentum. A bill that would make it unlawful for private employers in the city to require workers to check and respond to email and other electronic communications during non-work hours was introduced in March 2018 and remains in committee.