For Immediate Release
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Announces First “Just Cause” Settlement with Subway Franchisee for Illegally Firing Workers
NEW YORK, NY – Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Peter A. Hatch today announced that the agency has successfully resolved its first case under the City’s groundbreaking new “just cause” law, which makes it illegal for fast food employers to fire or lay off workers, or reduce their hours by more than 15 percent, without just cause or a legitimate economic reason. The settlement is a result of DCWP’s investigation into a Subway franchisee, located in the Kings Plaza Shopping Center, that illegally fired two employees in August 2021. The employees, who are a couple and neither of whom had any previous disciplinary action on file, were fired with no progressive discipline or written explanation after they unexpectedly could not work a single scheduled shift.
“Brooklyn is home to thousands of hard-working fast food workers who were there for us throughout the pandemic. They deserve predictable schedules, guaranteed shifts, and protection from being fired on a whim,” said DCWP Commissioner Peter A. Hatch. “New York City’s Fair Workweek Law and new ‘just cause’ law guarantee these rights and when employers violate them, we will fight for workers.”
“It’s 2021 and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The least employers can do to respect our rights to a fair workweek and have schedules posted in advance, availability valued, and preparations for shifts to be covered. The service industry should be no exception to reasonable protocols that other types of businesses automatically adhere to,” said former Subway employee Cameron Driver. “My partner, Jamarr, and I are proud that New York has protections for employees like this in place and encourage workers that are being mistreated to share their issues and genuinely make a positive impact in their work life. We’re just extremely relieved and grateful for the important work the DCWP is doing and can't thank them enough.”
“I'm truly impressed with the way DCWP handled our ‘just cause’ case. The whole process from start to finish was super easy. Their timeline was accurate, they were extremely helpful by updating us every step of the way, and they created a fair experience that ended up rectifying such a terrible wrong,” said former Subway employee Jamarr Goss. “All anyone wants are the necessary resources to survive, so we’re incredibly grateful there are protections like these in place to help us from being intimidated by employers.”
The settlement requires the restaurant to pay $2,200 in restitution to each of the two former employees—who did not want to be rehired because they found new jobs—and $1,600 in civil penalties. The restaurant must also implement new policies that comply with the Law, distribute a new progressive discipline policy to its employees, train its supervisors and managers, and comply with the Fair Workweek Law’s “just cause” provisions going forward.
The “just cause” law adds critical new job protections for fast food workers in addition to the existing fair scheduling protections under the City’s Fair Workweek Law. As of July 4, fast food employers:
Under the Fair Workweek Law, which went into effect in November 2017, fast food employers in New York City must also give workers regular predictable schedules, two weeks’ advance notice of their work schedules covering specific dates, premium pay of between $10-$75 for schedule changes, and the opportunity to work newly available shifts before hiring new workers. Fast food employers also cannot schedule workers for a morning shift the day after a night shift unless workers consent in writing and are paid a $100 premium to work the shift. Similarly, fast food employers must obtain workers’ written consent before adding any time to their work schedules with less than two weeks’ notice and may not penalize them for declining to work. Under the Law, retail employers must also give workers advanced notice of work schedules and may not schedule workers for on-call shifts or change workers’ schedules with inadequate notice.
Fast food employers must post the new NYC Fast Food Workers’ Rights Notice in English and any language that is the primary language of at least five percent of the workers if available on the DCWP website. Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/workers or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for the new Notice, which is available in 16 languages, as well as an overview of the law, information about the required progressive discipline policy, templates, and FAQs about the law.
DCWP’s case was handled by Supervising Investigator Juana Abreu and Enforcement Counsel Shane Crary Ross, under the supervision of Director of Investigations Elizabeth Wagoner of DCWP’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which is led by Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Holt.
“Fast food workers deserve strong protections like the new “just cause” law to ensure they are treated fairly and with dignity,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “I thank the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for holding employers accountable for violating the laws and delivering justice for the affected employees.”
“For too long fast food workers could be fired or have their hours cut for any reason or no reason at all. “Just cause” protections put an end to at-will employment for these essential workers who have kept us fed throughout the pandemic,” said 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg. “The 175,000 members of 32BJ SEIU are proud to have fought alongside fast food workers and their families to win just cause, and we commend the Department of Worker and Consumer Protections for enforcing the law and for settling the first just cause case for fast food workers in New York City. We will continue to stand with fast food workers to hold employers accountable to the law.”
“New York’s historic “just cause” law is protecting fast food workers and their families from the devastating impact of unfair firings,” said National Employment Law Project’s State Policy Program Director Paul Sonn. “We congratulate the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection on its first settlement enforcing this important and common-sense safeguard – which ultimately should be expanded to protect all workers in the city.”
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 59,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Abigail Lootens | Carmel Agnant
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection