Recent Laws Offer More Protections to Front Line Workers

On December 31, 2020 the Healthy Terminals Act was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo requiring employees working at airports and with contractors providing airport food services to receive fringe benefits or cash supplements. The bill was co-sponsored by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, D-Bronx and supported by Service Employees International Union Local 32 BJ, the union representing many of the airport workers.  It is expected that this new law will offset the cost of health care for airport employees who work performing building services, cabin cleaners and wheelchairs and baggage claims attendants.

These workers generally cannot afford employer-based health care plans and make too much to qualify for health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. For this reason, many of these workers are uninsured and facing huge debt from medical bills.  Many workers and members of their family are among the black, brown and immigrant communities who have suffered the most during the pandemic either from COVID-19 or loss of employment during the shutdown. Medical bills for a chronic or serious medical conditions have devastating financial consequences for those, such as these workers, who are uninsured.

At the start of the new year, Mayor Bill DeBlasio signed into law two bills to protect employees. The “Just Cause” Worker Protection Bill provides that fast food employers need just cause to fire a worker or reduce his or her hours by more than 15%.  The firing can only come after the employer has used a progressive discipline policy.  The law defines “just cause” as the “failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or engaging in misconduct that his harmful to the fast-food employer’s legitimate business interests.”

The second bill signed into law requires an employer to demonstrate “a bona fide economic reason” to layoff a worker and further requires such layoffs to be done in reverse seniority order.  If an employer does re-hire laid off workers, those with seniority must be re-hired first.

The restrictions imposed by the bills applies to fast food chains with more than 30 locations.

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