Grocery store workers return to work after filing complaint with DCWP

Workers in front of Key Food in Riverdale.
Courtesy of NYC Consumer and Worker Protection

A grocery store in Riverdale showed it did not care about the wellbeing of its essential employees when it canned 19 of them during the pandemic.

Well, karma came knocking last week.

On Jan. 12, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas announced a settlement agreement with Key Food at 5661 Riverdale Avenue to resolve a lawsuit that DCWP filed in September last year for illegally firing workers during COVID-19.

The settlement resolves violations of the City’s Grocery Worker Retention Act, which requires new grocery store owners to keep previous employees for a 90-day transitional period. Thirteen workers have already or are in the process of returning to work as a result of the settlement, which also requires the store to pay $90,000 in lost wages to the 19 workers who were fired.

The lawsuit alleged multiple violations of the city’s Grocery Worker Retention Act, which requires new grocery store owners to keep previous employees for a 90-day transitional period. DCWP requested $198,240 in lost wages for the 21 workers who were fired, which is three times what they would have made had they been retained, as well as approximately $12,069 in lost benefits.

“We’re glad we could find a resolution that not only put the money back into pockets of essential workers during these difficult economic times but also get the jobs back for those who decided to return,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “It was just wrong that the same community heroes who risked their lives to go to work while many of us stayed home were the ones left jobless. We urge all workers who would like to learn more about their rights or have any questions to contact us at nyc.gov/workers or by calling 311.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said the firing of the workers was appalling. The lawmaker also told residents that until those people were rehired no one should go to the supermarket.

“It was an absolute disgrace,” he said. “It was a violation. How do you do that to people?”

He was quite pleased the DCWP won the lawsuit and has allowed people to return to their jobs. The assemblyman spoke with the owners of the supermarket, yet they never provided a satisfactory reason as to why they let people go.

“You want to do business in our community at least do the right thing,” he stressed. “It was so offensive they would do this to hard working people.”

More from Around NYC