More than 550,000 Californians work at fast-food restaurants. Unlike in other industries, these jobs don’t require special training or advanced degrees, and so they offer opportunities that many workers otherwise might not have. Unfortunately, this aspect of the fast-food industry can also mean that its workers are vulnerable to exploitation. Workers have long complained of low wages, long hours and unsafe working conditions.
- Recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law aimed at improving conditions for fast-food workers. The Fast Food Standards and Accountability Act caps the minimum wage for fast-food workers at $22 per hour through next year. It also makes clear that fast-food workers have the types of protection from retaliation and discrimination enjoyed by other workers.
Fast-food industry companies have loudly protested the new law. They claim it will drive up prices at their restaurants and perhaps even force businesses to move out of state.
What is retaliation?
In employment law, the term retaliation refers to illegal retaliation against workers after they have engaged in legally protected behavior. For instance, a worker is protected from retaliation after they have lawfully reported illegal behavior such as racial discrimination, sexual discrimination or unsafe working conditions at their workplace. This protection means the employer cannot fire or otherwise take negative employment action against the worker simply because they reported the behavior.
Many workers in restaurants and other industries do not report problems in their workplaces because they are afraid they will lose their jobs if they speak up. It’s important for these workers to know that California and federal law provide them with protection.