Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato Joins Assemblymembers Kim and Vanel and Senator Peralta to Protect Small Businesses

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato joined Assemblymember Ron Kim at Flushing Town Hall at 11AM today, in announcement of the Restaurant Owners’ Whistleblower Protection Act (A. 5817 / S. 4472). The Senate sponsor, Jose Peralta, and Assemblyman Clyde Vanel were also on hand and spoke about why the current system of health inspections is adversarial and arbitrary, and why it needs to be reformed.

The Act is designed to make the Health enforcement system more collaborative, educational and meaningful, instead of forcing arbitrary and unfair taxes on small business owners and their employees. It allows business owners to reschedule an inspection if it occurs outside the promised time window, or in case the owner has reason to believe the inspector is acting unprofessionally or vindictively. It also mandates the establishment of a hotline to field complaints in multiple languages, so that business owners and employees have some system of feedback when they have a bad encounter with an enforcement agent.

Pheffer Amato said, “My husband has owned a pizzeria in Rockaway for 35 years. He, like other small business owners, understands the need for inspections. But the system New York City uses is adversarial, and too often, inspections are used as a way to milk businesses for fines as an added, unpredictable and unfair tax.

“Some inspectors are professional and do their jobs. But many aren't. If an inspector appears outside the planned time window, or seems unprofessional, disruptive or vindictive, the Department of Health provides no recourse for restaurant owners or employees. The grading system NYC uses is also arbitrary, which privileges abuse of the fine system and the personal feelings of inspectors above a real rubric that would help restaurants and patrons stay safe and healthy.

“I commend Assemblymember Kim and the other sponsors for creating a means to reschedule inspections, and requiring a multi-lingual feedback hotline where employees and owners can voice their concerns. This is a good first step in creating a new, educational, non-adversarial system. Restaurants should be able to use inspections as learning opportunities and points of pride, not an inevitable slew of fines and uncertainty. This legislation is a big step in that direction."