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Retail Foodservice

New Legislation for Fast-Food Workers

And it's not about $15 an hour

The Lempert Report

A new bill prohibits fast-food companies from firing workers or significantly reducing their hours without a stated reason and would give employees the chance to correct their behavior before termination. With this legislation, New York City could lead the nation in offering job security for fast-food workers.

The president of Fast Food Justice, an organization that fights for workplace improvements for fast-food employees, said staff members have been fired for infractions as trivial as not smiling enough.  

As the national Fight for $15 campaign highlights the need for living wages for fast-food staff, New York City’s just cause legislation stresses the importance of keeping some of the labor market’s most vulnerable workers employed.  

By some estimates, the fast-food industry has a 150% turnover rate.  

“For far too long, fast-food workers have been the victims of unfair reduction of hours or arbitrary termination,” New York City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said in a statement to Civil Eats. “By enacting just cause legislation, the city could require that fast-food chains demonstrate a legitimate reason for terminating a worker or reducing their hours.”

A recent report titled Fired On a Whim: The Precarious Existence of NYC Fast-Food Workers found that 58% of 237 fast-food employees have had their hours severely cut, and 65% have been fired without a reason.  

The New York bill would require fast-food chains to clearly outline job expectations and give workers warnings, chances to improve their behavior and notice of possible termination.  

McDonald’s has another solution: It is hiring 250,000 summer jobs staffed via ads on AARP's job board. While the percentage of teens (16 to 19) working summer jobs has fallen from more than 50% to 35% in the past 20 years, the 65-and-older crowd is the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. The average age of today’s fast-food worker has risen to 29 years old.

If the bill is successful in passing the legislature, we may see it expand to certain supermarkets that do not value training and employee retention, and that have poor labor practices as well.

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