Food at Friendly's restaurant.

Friendly's has faced store closures this past year.

Surprise Restaurant Shutdowns Could Decrease with Proposed Bills

Operations would need to notify employees 90 days in advance.

Members of both houses of Congress introduced bills in late November that would require restaurants to notify employees 90 days in advance of a location closing. 

The bills come just months after full-service chain Friendly’s closed 15 locations in upstate New York, which is represented as one of the Senate bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). Schumer is joined by co-sponsor Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and the original sponsor, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

In a statement with Brown and Murray, Schumer said, too often, companies that shut down give their employees hardly any or no notice, leaving workers and their families to deal with the fallout.

“This is wrong and it must come to an end immediately,” he said. “The Fair Warning Act would hold employers accountable for their business decisions and ensure workers and their families get the notice they need to prepare for and respond to layoffs.”

The version that U.S. Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH) and David Trone (D-MD) introduced in the House of Representatives, titled the Fair Warning Act of 2019, would require restaurants to notify each affected employee, a representative of the employees, or secretary or governor of the state before the closing. After the company sends that notification, it must wait 90 calendar days before it can order the closing of the sit. The Senate bill contains the same requirement.

The bill allows for exemptions to the 90-day requirement if the location will require refinancing or a new contractual agreement within the prescribed time window. The bill also allows for exemptions in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The bill also lowers the threshold of companies that must notify workers from 100 employees to 50 employees, redefines terms to make requirements clearer for companies, and establishes an enforcement mechanism to hold companies accountable.

Brown, who initially introduced the bill in the Senate, says in a statement that a location closing with little notice is a reality with which the state of Ohio is also far too familiar.

“That’s why I’m joining Senators Schumer and Murray to introduce the Fair Warning Act to hold employers accountable and give workers and communities the notice they need to better prepare for and recover from these layoffs,” he said. “We cannot accept that the future of work means lower pay, less job security, and fewer workplace protections.”

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