The New York City Council passed a bill yesterday, Dec. 17, 2020, providing job security to fast-food restaurant workers in the form of protections against arbitrary termination.
All states in the U.S. except Montana are "at-will" employment states, meaning employers can dismiss employees for any (legal) reason and without warning. Several states allow certain exceptions, but not New York.
The beneficiaries of the new law are at-will employees in the NYC fast-food industry, where collective bargaining power is scarce.
The bill requires large employers to demonstrate a valid reason for firing an employee, allows fired employees to appeal through arbitration, and requires that layoffs be based on seniority.
The bill might prove to be a precedent and spread to other industries and other cities and states, especially under the current state legislature.
Fast-food chains and industry groups opposed the bill, claiming it would unfairly restrict their ability to hire and retain the best workers, thus also affecting the quality of their service or product, and that it would significantly impact the struggling restaurant industry. They also argued that ultimately it will hurt workers because employers will increase automation and decrease hiring.
Advocates pointed to the need for job protections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant high unemployment rate, support for essential workers, and the social aspects given that the fast-food workforce mainly consists of women and people of color.