New York Attorney General Takes on "No-Poach" Restrictions in Fast Food Worker Contracts

Fast food and other restaurant employees often deal with poor working conditions and low pay. On top of that, many of the country's top fast-food chains have maintained “no-poach” agreements that limit workers' ability to seek better-paying jobs. In response to a recent investigation by New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood and 10 other states’ attorneys general, at least seven major chains announced they plan to stop enforcing such policies going forward.

According to a July 9 press release from Attorney General Underwood's office, the “coalition” of attorneys general sought information from eight popular chains regarding provisions in their franchise agreements that “restrict a franchisee’s ability to recruit or hire employees of another franchisee of the same chain.” The attorneys general claimed that “58 percent of major franchisors have no-poach provisions in their franchise agreements, and the number is even higher – 80 percent – for fast food franchisors.” This, in turn, has led to “persistent low wage growth” and may violate state and federal laws designed to preserve competition in labor markets.

As part of the investigation, the New York Attorney General's office invited any worker subject to these types of restrictive policies to file a complaint.

Washington AG Announces Settlements with McDonald's, Six Other Chains

A few days after the state attorneys general published their letter, seven of the included chains reached an agreement with the Washington State Attorney General to “remove so-called no-poach clauses from their contracts with franchisees,” according to the New York Times. The participating restaurants are Arby's, Auntie Anne's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Carl's Jr., Cinnabon, Jimmy John's, and McDonald's. This group is not the same as the eight restaurants targeted by the letter, which include Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Little Caesars, Panera Bread, Popeyes Louisiana Chicken, and Wendy's.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement that his “goal is to eliminate these provisions in all fast-food contracts in my state.” Ferguson is part of the group of the 11 attorneys general mentioned above. His office conducted a separate investigation, according to the Times, and the other states reserve the right to take additional actions against the restaurants participating in the Washington settlement.

Stand Up Against Illegal Workplace Pay Policies

Addressing no-poach contracts is a significant issue for many fast-food workers, especially since they often work for minimum wage without benefits and lack the protections of unionized collective bargaining. Hopefully, the efforts by the various state attorneys general to bring greater scrutiny to these contractual restrictions will benefit all workers in the long-run.

In the meantime, it is important to remember there are still certain overtime and wage-hour laws that all employers–including fast-food chains–must obey. If your employer is not following the law, you should not limit yourself to filing a complaint with the Attorney General. You should seek out independent advice from a qualified New York employment lawyer. Call the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C. at (646) 760-6493, or contact us online.

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