Judge challenges trade groups to New York law for fast food workers

A worker delivers food to a McDonald’s in London, July 22, 2020. REUTERS / Hannah McKay

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  • Groups said ‘just cause’ law was over around collective bargaining
  • Unions have failed for years to organize fast food workers
  • The judge said the law simply sets minimum standards

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Manhattan has ruled that a New York City law requiring fast food companies to have cause before firing workers is not blocked by federal laws governing collective bargaining and arbitration.

U.S. District Judge Denise Côté on Thursday noted the city law is a valid “minimum labor standard” designed to promote job stability for hourly fast food workers, whether unionized or not, and does not interfere with collective bargaining.

The 2021 law states that fast food companies can only fire employees or reduce their hours if they fail to perform their duties or engage in misconduct that harms the “legitimate business interests” of their employers. The law only applies to companies with 30 or more locations nationwide.

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Two trade groups, the Restaurant Law Center and the New York State Restaurant Association, had argued that the union-backed law was an attempt to impose requirements normally only seen in labor contracts after years of failed efforts to organize fast food workers.

But Cote said the law had no impact on the collective bargaining process.

“The law joins a plethora of valid state and local laws that form a backdrop of rights against which employers and employees come to the bargaining table,” the judge wrote.

The groups had also claimed that a provision in the city law allowing workers to sue in arbitration for wrongful dismissal was invalid under federal arbitration law because it does not require employers’ consent. to waive legal proceedings.

Côté said Thursday that the FAA does not specifically preclude laws requiring arbitration, so the city’s law was not anticipated.

Cote declined to address separate claims from business groups that the show cause requirement violates various New York state laws, saying they could be refiled in state court.

The RLC, which is affiliated with the National Restaurant Association, and the NYSRA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The groups are represented by Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

New York City Corporation attorney Georgia Pestana said in a statement that as the city recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, worker protections like the Justification Act “will provide much-needed stability. – and the possibility of economic mobility – to the lives of these workers.

The case is Restaurant Law Center v. City of New York, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:21-cv-04801.

For commercial groups: Leni Battaglia of Morgan Lewis & Bockius

For the city: New York City Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana

(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a statement from the New York City Law Department.)

Read more:

Trade groups challenge New York’s ‘just cause’ law for fast food staff

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