February 18, 2020
New York State Supreme Court rules State law does not preempt City's Fair Workweek Law
NEW YORK––Today, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas and Corporation Counsel James E. Johnson announced that the New York State Supreme Court has upheld New York City's Fair Workweek Law and ruled that the law is not pre-empted by New York State wage and hour laws. The International Franchise Association, Restaurant Law Center, and the New York State Restaurant Association challenged the City's law as it applies to fast food workers, claiming it conflicted with, and was broadly preempted by state labor law. In rejecting the claims, and upholding the law, the Court acknowledged that New York City's purpose in passing the law was to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation by unpredictable scheduling.
"In New York City, knowing when you're working and planning accordingly is a right," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "We fought hard to get workers the peace of mind they deserve and will continue fighting for workers every time anyone tries to take it away."
"Today is a major win for workers across New York City. We are ecstatic with the court's decision on our Fair Workweek Law, which is intended to give fast-food and retail workers in New York City greater control over their lives and the chance to work full time jobs," said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. "We are committed to protecting New Yorkers and urge any fast food worker experiencing workplace violations to file a complaint with our office."
Corporation Counsel James E. Johnson said, "All of us want the ability to determine the course of our lives and plan for our families. Employers who fail to provide an advance schedule to an employee or impose last minute changes to a worker's schedule can, and often do, bring chaos to the lives of hardworking employees, many of whom are balancing other priorities like school or caring for a sick relative. Consistent and predictable schedules make life better for all of us and we are pleased the court has upheld this critically important city law."
Under the Fair Workweek Law, which went into effect on November 26, 2017, fast food employers in New York City must give workers good faith estimates of when and how much they will work, predictable work schedules, premium pay for schedule changes, and the opportunity to work newly available shifts before hiring new workers. Fast food employers also cannot schedule workers to work a "clopening" unless workers consent in writing and are paid a $100 premium to work the shift. Under the Law, retail employers must also give workers advance notice of work schedules and may not schedule workers for on-call shifts or change workers' schedules with inadequate notice. The required You Have a Right to a Predictable Work Schedule must be posted in any language that is the primary language of at least five percent of the workers at the workplace and is available on DCWP's website.
Since the law went into effect, DCWP has received more than 300 complaints about Fair Workweek, closed more than 130 investigations, and obtained resolutions requiring more than $1,500,000 combined fines and restitution for more than 3,000 workers.
"The Fair Workweek is all about protecting workers and their rights. It allows fast-food employees to improve their lives and have control of their schedules. For far too long, fast-food hourly workers faced unfair work schedules, like, for example, closing down a store and then opening it the following morning. I am proud of the work the City Council did to require fast food employers, among other measures, to provide workers with a two-week's notice of their schedule. Today's ruling strengthens the protections that allow hourly workers to plan for family responsibilities and complete their work schedules without last-minute surprises," said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
"I am proud that this morning's court decision is taking a step further to ensure job security among our commercial restaurant employees. The Court acknowledged that our city's most vulnerable populations are often exploited through unpredictable scheduling and upholding NYC's Fair Work Week law is crucial in keeping our fast food workers safe," said Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo.
"Fast food workers deserve stable, predictable schedules that allow them to plan their lives and their budgets. Our Fair Work Week legislation set out to ensure that workers would get the notice and pay that they need for a decent standard of living. Thankfully, the court affirmed that goal today," said Council Member Brad Lander.
"Living paycheck to paycheck is tough, not knowing when you'll be working for that paycheck is tougher. Since the Fair Workweek Law went into effect, over 300,000 workers have known in advance when they have to be at work so they can plan ahead for childcare, doctor's appointments, and everything else that comes up in life. This decision upholds a deeply just policy shows New York City has the power to not only offer workers a living wage, but quality working conditions too. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for his fight for our city's working families," said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.
"The City's Fair Workweek law was designed to protect workers and I am pleased that the courts agreed to uphold it. Fast food companies which make millions or billions of dollars can afford to give their workers two weeks' notice and just compensation when their schedules are changed abruptly. The Fair Workweek law will continue to protect tens of thousands of New York families who deeply benefit from this law," said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.
"A Better Balance was proud to be a part of the coalition that worked to enact the Fair Workweek Law—which ensures low wage workers are protected from abusive scheduling practices that make it difficult to work and care for a family—and to help defend that law by filing an amicus brief supporting the city's authority to enact it. The New York State Court's ruling upholding this law is a victory for millions of working families in New York City. It's also an important affirmation of New York City's authority to enact laws for the benefit of its workforce and communities," said A Better Balance Co-Founder and Co-President Sherry Leiwant.
"32BJ SEIU supported us, fast food workers, in our fight to win the groundbreaking Fair Workweek law," Brianna Augustin, who works at Chipotle, said. "I am very appreciative, as a new mother, that the law says I should get my schedule two weeks in advance. This law is a way for me to stabilize my schedule, for me to get more hours at work and it creates a path to full time hours for me."