Wrongful Discharge of Fast Food Employees in New York City

At-Will Employment for Fast Food Restaurants Ends in New York City

Wrongful Discharge of Fast Food Employees in New York City refers to a new ordinance that the NYC Council passed. The ordinance changed termination based on at-will employment law to law based just cause or a bona fide economic reason.

At-will employment for restaurants has long been the established law in New York. At will employment means employers have the right to fire an employee without warning, for no reason or for any reason at all. Of course, the law does not permit discrimination or retaliation.

What does the Wrongful Discharge of Fast food Workers ordinance entail?

The new ordinance bars fast food employers from firing a worker without showing legitimate reasons. Legitimate reasons would include economic concerns or just cause related to job performance or misconduct. Furthermore, in a lawsuit, the employer would have to show the reasons for lay-off or termination.

Throughout the United States, workers who are not protected by an employment contract or union typically are subject to at will employment laws.

What does “just cause” termination involve?

The court would consider certain factors when determining whether just cause existed. Factors would include that the fast food employee:

  • Knew or should have known the employer’s policy, rule or practice serving as a basis for discipline or discharge
  • Violated policy, a rule or practice or committed misconduct as the basis for discharge or discipline
  • Received adequate and relevant training for the job
  • Was subject to fair and objective investigation of job performance or misconduct

In addition, the fast food employer’s policy, rules or practices must be reasonable. Also, the employer must apply them consistently to all workers.

How does the ordinance change employment law for employers?

For decades, fast food employers have had the legal advantage in courtrooms when employees pursued wrongful termination cases. For example, in such cases, fast food workers had to prove that discharge occurred due to employer retaliation. However, with the new ordinance, the standard is lower—just cause instead of at will employment law. In addition, the burden of proof falls on the fast food employer who must prove that just cause existed for termination. Previously, while most fast food employers did not arbitrarily fire workers, they did receive greater legal protection under at will employment law.

Consult with an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

If you have questions or concerns regarding job termination or other employment law issues, Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. can provide you with experienced legal guidance. Call (718) 275-6500 to arrange an appointment.

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