FAST Recovery Act Establishes Council to Dictate Sectorwide Minimum Standards on Wages, Hours and Other Working Conditions

Alerts / September 8, 2022

A new California law, the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FAST Recovery Act or AB 257), creates the Fast Food Council, which is charged with dictating minimum standards for employees of fast-food restaurants on a sectorwide basis (a key feature of labor relations in Europe). This will include implementing standards for wages, working hours, safety, and discrimination and retaliation. For example, the council is empowered to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers up to $22 per hour in 2023, with subsequent years subject to inflationary increases.

Additional key takeaways from the bill are:

  • The act defines a fast-food restaurant as any establishment that (1) is part of a brand/fast-food chain with more than 100 locations nationwide and (2) primarily provides food and beverages for immediate consumption to customers who order or select items and pay before eating, with items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, and with limited or no table service.
  • The council will be composed of 10 individuals: one representative from the Department of Industrial Relations, two representatives of fast-food franchisors, two representatives of fast-food franchisees, two representatives of fast-food restaurant employees, two representatives of advocates for fast-food restaurant employees, and one representative from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
  • No standard that the council implements will supersede those standards covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement – so long as the collective bargaining agreement does not waive any occupational health and safety protections. Decisions by the council regarding standards will be made by an affirmative vote of at least six council members.
  • The council is required to conduct a full review of the minimum standards at least once every three years. Upon that review, the council is required to issue, amend or repeal any standards applicable to fast-food restaurants. Notably, the potential for frequent changes in the standards could create high operational and administrative costs for employers.
  • The FAST Recovery Act prohibits fast-food restaurant operators from discharging, discriminating against or retaliating against any employee who engages in specified protected activity relating to fast-food restaurant health and safety. The bill provides employees with a private right of action to enforce this prohibition, which entitles the employee to reinstatement, treble lost wages and work benefits, and attorneys fees if they prevail.

The various aspects of the FAST Recovery Act highlighted above, among others, are certain to be the subject of significant litigation in the future. This litigation has the potential to create as significant a financial consequence as did the Private Attorneys General Act, which also provides broad recourse for violation of statutorily created rights. The FAST Recovery Act will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, and will become inoperative on Jan. 1, 2029. The full text of the enacted version of AB 257 can be found here.

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