New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga today announced a settlement with coffee giant Starbucks over the wrongful termination of Austin Locke in violation of the “just cause” protections of New York City’s New York City’s Fair Workweek Law. Last fall, DCWP announced a lawsuit against Starbucks for illegally firing the longtime barista from one of its Astoria locations. Starbucks has now agreed to reinstate Locke to his former position at the Astoria Starbucks where he worked, pay over $21,000 in backpay and penalties, and comply with the city’s Fair Workweek Law going forward.
“New York’s workers should know that we will always fight to protect their rights” said Mayor Adams. “Thanks to the efforts of our administration, Austin Locke will be returning to his job today at Starbucks — and with thousands of dollars in backpay in his pocket. We will not stand by when an employee is unlawfully terminated, and I commend DCWP for its quick work in this case.”
“Our city’s equitable economic recovery depends on our ability to protect workers across the five boroughs,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “The administration is proud to have secured Mr. Locke’s reinstatement, and we will continue to be vigilant against violations of the city’s Fair Workweek Law.”
“We are pleased to see Mr. Locke — who never should have been fired — reinstated with full backpay,” said DCWP Commissioner Vera Mayuga. “DCWP will not hesitate to take legal action to put someone back to work after an unlawful termination. Any fast food worker who believes they’ve been fired unfairly should contact us immediately.”
“Getting reinstated is not just a win for me but a win for the working class,” said Austin Locke. “Let this be an example to all: In New York City, you can’t mess with workers.”
In July 2022, DCWP received a complaint from Locke alleging that Starbucks had unlawfully fired him from his job. DCWP quickly launched an investigation and found that Starbucks did in fact terminate Locke unlawfully. DCWP gave Starbucks an opportunity to reinstate Locke at the conclusion of the investigation. When Starbucks failed to do so, DCWP filed a petition on September 1, 2022 with the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. The petition requested an order of reinstatement and backpay for Locke, which he will now receive under this settlement.
Under the Fair Workweek Law, it is illegal for fast food employers to fire or lay off workers who have completed a probation period of 30 days, or reduce their hours by more than 15 percent, without just cause or a legitimate economic reason. Whenever an employee is discharged or has their hours reduced by 15 percent or more without their consent, the employer must give the worker a notice of discharge in writing within five days that explains the reason. A discharged employee who loses a scheduled shift is entitled to premium pay for each lost shift. Employers and employees can visit the city’s workers’ rights page or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside New York City) for more information about the law, including an overview of the law, information about the required progressive discipline policy, different templates for signage that must be posted, and FAQs.
Since the Fair Workweek Law went into effect in November 2017, DCWP has received more than 520 complaints about potential Fair Workweek violations, closed more than 230 investigations, and obtained resolutions requiring nearly $27.1 million in combined fines and restitution for more than 20,100 workers.