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Yes, Managers Can Be Fired For Violating Employee Rights Laws

by | Feb 22, 2023 | Employment Discrimination, Federal Law Update, Wrongful Termination |

Rafael Fox was promoted to be a store manager at Starbucks in New York. Fox was transferred to the West Broadway and Leonard store to replace the prior store manager, who had committed wage theft violations. In November 2017, New York City’s Fair Workweek legislation went into effect. The New York City Fair Workweek legislation is a set of laws aimed at providing stability and predictability to workers in industries such as fast food, retail, and hospitality. The legislation requires employers to give their employees schedules at least 14 days in advance, provide premium pay for last-minute schedule changes, and offer additional hours to current employees before hiring new workers. The goal of the Fair Workweek legislation is to address issues of wage theft, irregular scheduling, and insufficient hours, which disproportionately affect low-wage workers.

Starbucks trained its managers on the new law and obviously demanded compliance.

A few months after the law took effect, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs issued a complaint asserting that Fox’s store was in violation – specifically that hours were improperly reduced, that work schedules were missing, and that schedules were not posted with adequate notice. Starbucks’ first internal investigation confirmed the violation. While being investigated for Fair Workweek violations, Fox complained that certain pest strips being used in the store were unsafe. The pest strips were removed.

A second investigation at Fox’s store, which was conducted a week or two later, revealed that Starbucks employees were owed predictability pay penalties for late schedule postings in the amount of several thousand dollars. As a result, Starbucks fired Fox, and during the first year of the Fair Workweek law, fired eight other noncompliant managers.

Fox sued for wrongful termination. Based on the information presented above, do you think that Fox was fired for:

  • Participating in the wage violation committed by the former manager;
  • Complaining about pest strips; or
  • Repeatedly violating employee rights laws after being warned and costing the company money.

In Fox v. Starbucks Corp., No. 21-2531, 2023 WL 407493, at *2 (2d Cir. Jan. 26, 2023), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with you (as well as the District Court) and affirmed the dismissal of his complaint:

we agree with the district court’s conclusion that he failed to demonstrate that Starbucks’s reasons for his termination were pretextual. Fox does not dispute that he violated the Fair Workweek Law and that this is a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the termination. Rather, Fox challenges the accuracy of Starbucks’s other’ reasons for his termination. Fox’s arguments fail because he cannot show pretext “simply by questioning whether [his] misconduct was sufficiently severe to warrant termination.” Bentley v. AutoZoners, LLC, 935 F.3d 76, 89 (2d Cir. 2019).

As our employee’s rights attorneys have frequently blogged, employees who have committed terminatable offenses cannot save their jobs by belated raising legal rights. That is why employees who are genuinely facing discrimination, harassment, or other illegal wry conditions need to timely report such conduct.

Best Lawyer Blogs On Point:

Do I have a wrongful termination claim against my former employer?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: To find out if you have a viable wrongful termination claim, your best option is to reach out and call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Since every situation is different, you need direct advice from the best employee’s rights firm near you to determine if you have been wrongly fired. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?; Why Having Skilled Employment Attorneys Is Critical; Employment Law: Avoid Hiring The Wrong Attorney). Call our lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Kentucky to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.


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