State AGs Argue for Fast Food Worker Rights in 2nd Cir. Amicus Brief

New York Attorney General Letitia James, along with fourteen other attorneys general, filed an amicus brief arguing in favor of New York City’s Wrongful Discharge Law. They ask the Second Circuit to uphold the District Court’s decision in favor of the law.

In 2017, the New York City Council passed the Fair Workweek Law, which requires managers of fast-food restaurants to give workers at least fourteen days notice of schedule changes. Then in 2021, the council amended this law to prohibit managers from firing or cutting workers’ hours by fifteen percent “except for just cause or for a bona fide economic reason.”

The Restaurant Law Center and the New York State Restaurant Association sued the city, arguing that it is preempted by the National Labor Rights Act, specifically under the Machinist’s decision,  and the dormant Commerce Clause. Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the city.

However, the plaintiffs appealed the decision. Their claim, the attorneys general argue, is “based largely on their contention that the Wrongful Discharge Law provides too many protections to employees and therefore removes certain issues ‘from the realm of bargaining.’”

In the brief, James and the other attorneys general argue that the 2022 amendment does not infringe on workers’ right to freely organize but rather sets the starting point from which unions and workers can negotiate. They further argue that the law does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause since it only affects restaurants located in the jurisdiction of New York City regardless of whether the restaurant chain has locations in other states.

In addition to the New York Attorney General, the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.