It has been an unfortunate mentality among many employers that fast-food workers are disposable like the paper and plastic wrappers that they serve food in. In at-will employment states, white-collar and professional workers aren’t any more legally protected from being fired without cause than fast-food workers.
In New York City, a new law that changes at-will employment for fast-food industry workers, went into effect on July 4 of this year. Right now, only fast-food workers are covered under the new legislation.
At-will employment is an arrangement in which either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment at any time, with or without cause. Unfortunately, at-will employment can sometimes hide terminations for illegal discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.
What must employers in New York do to fire a fast-food worker now?
The new standard requires employers to show that fast-food workers have failed to perform their duties or done something against company policy. This must be documented to establish that the employee is being fired for cause, essentially doing away with at-will employment.
In late May, the New York State Restaurant Association filed a federal lawsuit fighting the new law. In the lawsuit, the Association claims that the new law discriminates against employers and violates their constitutional rights.
What can you do if you think you’ve been unfairly fired?
Workers who believe they’ve been fired unfairly can file a complaint to the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. Furthermore, fast-food workers could sue in state court where, if they win, they could be awarded punitive damages.
Employment law in New York is a complicated and ever-changing subject. These recent landmark changes are in a state of transition and will surely be fought out in court. If you want to know more about your rights and options, being knowledgeable and current on these changes can be your best asset in these changing times.