AG James Leads Coalition Pushing to Protect NYC Law
Requiring Just Cause to Fire Workers at Fast-Food Restaurants
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her efforts to stand up for workers’ rights, leading a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief to defend a New York City statute that requires just cause to fire or reduce the hours of a fast-food chain employee. This law, which took effect in 2021, requires fast-food chain restaurants in New York City to provide a valid reason — such as unsatisfactory performance, misconduct, or a legitimate economic concern — before firing or reducing the hours of an employee. The brief argues that the law passed by New York City does not violate the National Labor Relations Act or the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“Hardworking New Yorkers deserve to have the peace of mind that they won’t simply be fired for no legitimate reason,” said Attorney General James. “New York has the right to enact measures to protect our residents and their wellbeing, and this law helps protect workers from being taken advantage of by corporate powers. As Attorney General, I will always fight for hardworking New Yorkers and their families.”
In the amicus brief, Attorney General James and her fellow attorneys general note that local and state authorities regularly enforce their labor laws to address violations of state minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, and other protections, and that this New York City statute is a part of that sovereign authority. The coalition brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, asks the court to uphold the ruling of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which agreed that the just cause law is not preempted by federal law and does not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Attorney General James has consistently worked to defend workers’ rights and workplace protection laws, especially for low-wage workers and employees of major corporations. This past May, Attorney General James secured more than $2.9 million for hundreds of New York City Marriott workers who were denied full severance pay. In April, Attorney General James secured stolen wages for employees of a Manhattan-based pizzeria chain. Also in April, Attorney General James visited the Buffalo Starbucks which voted to unionize, to express her support for the workers as they fought for fairer pay and better working conditions from their multi-billion-dollar company. In April 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General James demanded that fast-food restaurants provide personal protective equipment to their employees. In March 2019, Attorney General James joined fellow attorneys general in securing an agreement with Arby’s, Dunkin’ Brands, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Little Caesars to stop using “no-poach” agreements, which restrict the right of fast-food workers to move from one franchise to another within the same restaurant chain.
Joining Attorney General James in filing this brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Stephen Yanni, Deputy Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood –– all of the Division for Appeals and Opinions.