Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced a settlement agreement with a Key Food in the Bronx (5661 Riverdale Avenue) to resolve a lawsuit that DCWP filed in September last year for illegally firing essential grocery workers during the pandemic. The settlement resolves violations of the City’s Grocery Worker Retention Act, which requires new grocery store owners to keep previous employees for a 90-day transitional period. Some 13 workers have already or are in the process of returning to work as a result of the settlement, which also requires the store to pay $90,000 in lost wages to the 19 workers who were fired.
“We are glad we could find a resolution that not only put the money back into pockets of essential workers during these difficult economic times but also get the jobs back for those who decided to return,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “It was just wrong that the same community heroes who risked their lives to go to work while many of us stayed home were the ones left jobless. We urge all workers who would like to learn more about their rights or have any questions to contact us at nyc.gov/workers or by calling 311.”
“What happened to the Local 338 members working at Key Food was entirely unacceptable after they spent months putting their lives on the line to ensure that their community had access to food and the critical supplies they needed during the peak months of the pandemic. This settlement is a testament to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection’s vigilance in enforcing the Grocery Worker Retention Act and their commitment to supporting essential workers, like the members of Local 338 employed at Key Food,” said John R. Durso, President, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW.
The settlement requires the stores to reinstate and retain the 13 employees willing to return at the original rate of pay for at least 90 days and hours and pay $90,000 restitution to the 19 workers who were fired.
Under the Grocery Worker Retention Act, the former owner of a grocery store must notify workers about the change in ownership and their employment rights 15 days prior to the sale. Following the sale, the new owner is required to keep all of the eligible existing staff employed at the store for at least 90 days after business begins operating under new ownership. After 90 days, the new owner can decide whether or not to keep any of the existing workers as employees. For more information, including FAQs about the law or to file a complaint, visit nyc.gov/workers or call 311.
This case was handled by Agency Attorney Emily Hoffman and Litigation Director Claudia Henriquez of DCWP’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which is led by Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Holt.
DCWP has multilingual educational resources for workers at nyc.gov/workers, including an overview of workplace rights during CoViD-19 and overviews of their rights as they return to work. DCWP’s Update about Workplace Laws During CoViD-19 provides a summary of local labor laws for employers and employees during the crisis, including an overview of sick leave laws. The City’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law provides workers with up to 56 hours of sick leave per year. Workers can use NYC sick leave for themselves or to care for a family member for a broad range of uses, including treatment, recovery or preventative care relating to CoViD-19, to care for a child whose school has been closed as a result of the pandemic, or if their workplace has been closed by an Executive Order relating to the pandemic. Workers can contact DCWP confidentially for information or to file a complaint.
About Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 75,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities.