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New York City Expands Scope of Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act


In 2002, Mayor Bloomberg signed the New York City Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act ("DBSWPA" or "Act") into law. The DBSWPA significantly affects companies' labor and employment considerations during the sale or transfer of commercial or residential property, or when changing building service contractors.

The original DBSWPA required successor building owners, managers, and contractors to offer employment to the pre-existing employees for a 90-day period. During this transition period, employees are retained, evaluated, and if found satisfactory, offered continued employment. Until the 90-day period expires, employees can only be terminated for cause or if the successor employer "determines that fewer building service employees are required to perform building services."  N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 22-505. Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and several other cities have all enacted similar worker retention laws.

Major Expansion of DBSWPA

On May 10, 2016, Mayor de Blasio signed a bill, introduced in November 2015 and passed by the City Council in April 2016, which modified the DBSWPA in several ways – mainly expanding the Act's coverage. The new law, Local Law 58, takes effect immediately.

The amended law increases the number and types of employees covered by the Act:

  • The definition of "covered employers" now includes commercial lessees or tenants with more than 35,000 square feet of space. The law previously only applied to owners, managers and contractors. Therefore, if a large commercial tenant terminates a third party contract to directly hire its building service workers or if it outsources the work to a new contractor, the tenant must comply with the Act.  

  • The previous exemption for buildings in which the New York City government leases more than 50% of the space in the building has been eliminated. The Council proposed removing the exemption to hold the City to similar standards to which it holds private sector employers.

  • Security officer and fire safety director job titles are now explicitly covered by the Act's coverage. Although the DBSWPA did not previously specifically exempt those positions, the Council removed any ambiguity as to whether those types of employees are covered by the Act.

  • The salary cap for employees covered by the Act is increased to $35 per hour (from $25) and will be annually adjusted for inflation by the Mayor's office.

The Act also now clearly covers insourcing and outsourcing of building service work by the building owner. In other words, building owners or managers that decide to provide building services in-house or outsourcing the work to a contractor will be subject to the Act's provisions. The Council amended the Act in this way to ensure that building owners and managers cannot escape the Act's requirements by simply hiring the building service workers directly or contracting the work out to a third party – which was a potential loophole before the amendments.

The new law also expands the remedies for violations of the Act, adding the granting of reinstatement as a possible remedy in addition to ordering injunctive relief. The Act also now authorizes courts to award back pay commencing with the date of discharge or refusal-to-retain until the employee is offered instatement or reinstatement, in addition to liquidated damages (equal to back pay).

Implications for Owners, Managers, and Tenants

With this major expansion of the DBSWPA, it is essential that all building owners, managers, and large tenants understand their obligations to building service workers. In particular, large tenants – who were never previously covered by the Act – should tread especially carefully. Prior to any sale, transfer, building service contract termination, insource, outsource, or any other change of the employing entity, the successor employer should know its obligations under the Act before taking over, or risk incurring substantial liability under the Act's expanded remedies. Covered employers that fail to comply with the Act may be required to reinstate the discharged employee(s) and provide double back pay (back pay plus liquidated damages). Therefore, it is critical that the broad range of organizations now considered "Covered Employers" understand the Act's mandates in order to avoid learning about its requirements after the execution of a business deal.

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume VI, Number 135


About this Author

Michael J Lebowich, Labor, Employment, Attorney, Proskauer, Law Firm

Michael Lebowich is a Partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Labor-Management Relations Group. He represents and counsels employers on a wide range of labor and employment matters, with a particular interest in the field of traditional labor law.

Michael acts as the primary spokesperson in collective bargaining negotiations, regularly handles grievance arbitrations, assists clients in the labor implications of corporate transactions, and counsels clients on union organizing issues, strike preparation and day-to-day contract administration issues. He...

David Bayer, Proskauer, labor relations attorney, employment lawyer, NHL, NBA legal, sports counsel, collective action groups

David L. Bayer is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Labor-Management Relations and Employment Litigation & Arbitration Groups. He represents a diverse range of clients across many industries, including professional sports leagues and teams, real estate and construction companies, private universities, financial institutions, retail companies, media outlets, not-for-profits and hospitals, among others. David has represented clients in all aspects of labor-management relations, including collective bargaining, administration of collective bargaining agreements, arbitration, matters before the National Labor Relations Board and related litigation. He has also advised clients on the labor and employment aspects of corporate transactions.

In addition, David has represented and counseled clients on a wide range of employment matters, including those involving claims of employment discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations and breach of restrictive covenants. He has also assisted clients in workplace investigations, updating workplace policies and handbooks, providing antidiscrimination and antiharassment training and general advice and counsel on compliance with federal, state and local employment laws.

Prior to joining Proskauer, David interned in the Labor Relations Department of Major League Baseball and was also a legal intern at the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. While in law school, David interned for the Honorable Michael H. Dolinger, U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of New York.