NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Acting Commissioner Sandra Abeles announced on July 29, 2021 settlement agreements with two fast food franchisees, a Pizza Hut in the Bronx and a McDonald’s in Brooklyn, to resolve violations of the NYC Fair Workweek Law on behalf of their workers. The settlements require the companies to pay a total of $221,356 in restitution to 135 workers, $17,043 in civil penalties, and to comply with the Law going forward.
“Too often, fast food workers’ lives are disrupted by last minute changes to their schedules and pay, making it difficult to live a decent, stable living,” said DCWP Acting Commissioner Sandra Abeles. “I want to remind all fast-food workers that unpredictable schedules are illegal under the Fair Workweek Law and any employer that retaliates against its employees for exercising their rights will not be tolerated. We thank the workers for bravely coming forward to report these violations.”
“When I complained to my job about my workplace rights being violated, I was fired and eventually became homeless because I was suddenly left with no income,” said Tanairi Reyes, former Pizza Hut worker. “No one should have to risk losing their job in order to have a predictable schedule and paycheck. I’m very happy about the settlement and it is nice to know that the City has our backs.”
DCWP’s investigations revealed that that these fast food franchisees violated the law by failing to provide schedules to employees two weeks in advance, failing to get written consent from employees when adding time to their schedules or when requiring them to work two shifts over two days when there are less than 11 hours between shifts (a “clopening”), failing to pay employees the required premiums for clopening shifts or when schedules were changed, failing to offer available shifts to current employees before hiring new employees, and failing to provide updated written good-faith estimates. The investigation also uncovered that Pizza Hut retaliated against an employee who exercised her rights, by reducing her hours and then terminating her. In addition to Fair Workweek violations, DCWP found Paid Safe and Sick Leave violations at Pizza Hut, including failure to allow use of sick-leave and non-compliant safe and sick-leave policies.
The settlements require the franchisees:
– Pizza Hut—which is now under new management (765 East Gun Hill Road, Bronx) to pay $90,371 in restitution to 64 workers and $8,028 in civil penalties. One worker who was retaliated against for exercising her rights will receive $27,471 of that restitution.
– McDonald’s (180 Parkside Avenue, Brooklyn) to pay $130,985 in restitution to 71 workers and $9,015 in civil penalties.
In addition to restitution and fines, the settlements require the franchisees to comply with the Fair Workweek and Paid Safe and Sick Leave laws going forward, including adopting internal compliance policies and procedures, training managers and supervisors, displaying educational posters about the Law, conducting regular self-audits, and appointing internal compliance officers who monitor and report on compliance.
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 general 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.
The Fair Workweek Law was also recently expanded to include “just cause,” or wrongful discharge protections. Under the amendments, which go into effect in phases, fast-food employers cannot fire or layoff workers or reduce their hours by more than 15 percent without just cause or a legitimate economic reason.
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 has started conducting a series of educational walks and roundtables to educate workers and employers about the new protections.
Since the law went into effect in 2017, DCWP has received more than 375 complaints about Fair Workweek, closed 182 investigations, and obtained resolutions requiring more than $2,457,342 in combined fines and restitution for 3,789 workers.
DCWP’s cases were handled by Investigator Ryan McGuire and Supervising Investigator Juana Abreu, 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.
Under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees and employers of domestic workers who work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid Safe and Sick Leave to employees. Employers with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid Safe and Sick Leave and employers with 100 or more employees must provide up to 56 hours of paid leave. Safe and Sick Leave is accrued at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per calendar year, and begins on the employee’s first day of employment. For employers who do not front-load Safe and Sick Leave on the first day of a new calendar year, employees must be able to carry over up to 40 hours of unused Safe and Sick Leave from one calendar year to the new calendar year. For more information about the Law, including the new Notice of Employee Rights in multiple languages, visit nyc.gov/workers.