Photo Courtesy of Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato’s Office
Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato joined her colleagues last week to announce the Restaurant Owners’ Whistleblower Protection Act.
By Forum Staff
Four elected State officials recently announced a bill designed to reform the current food-service establishment health inspection system.
Assemblymembers Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach), Ron Kim (Flushing), Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village), and State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) last week unveiled the Restaurant Owners’ Whistleblower Protection Act at Flushing Town Hall. The officials noted that the bill was crafted to make the health code enforcement “more collaborative, educational, and meaningful, instead of forcing arbitrary and unfair taxes on small business owners and their employees.”
According to the pols, ROWPA 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. Additionally, the bill 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.
“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,” Pheffer Amato said.
The freshman assemblywoman’s family owns and operates Elegante Restaurant & Pizzeria on Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
“Some inspectors are professional and do their jobs. But many aren’t,” she said. “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.”
Pheffer Amato commended Kim and the bill’s other sponsors for including an inspection rescheduling option and for “requiring a multi-lingual feedback hotline where employees and owners can voice their concerns.”
She added that ROWPA 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.”