New York Metropolis sues Chipotle, alleging lots of of hundreds of labor law violations

New York City is suing Chipotle Mexican Grill, alleging the company violated a law requiring fast food chains to give their employees more predictable and less hectic schedules.

In a lawsuit filed this week, the city’s Department of Consumer and Workers Protection said there had been nearly 600,000 violations of the law from late November 2017 to at least September 2019. Chipotle owes workers $ 151 million for the violations, the city said. Chipotle has between 80 and 90 locations and approximately 6,500 employees in New York City, depending on the lawsuit.

The City’s Fair Work Weeks Act, passed in 2017, requires employers to provide workers with a good faith estimate of their regular schedule and two-week notice of their set schedule. The law also requires employers to pay employees a bonus if they adjust their schedules within this two-week time window. Employers also have to pay a premium when scheduling workers for a “closure” – a final shift followed immediately by an opening shift that prevents workers from getting a full night’s sleep.

The lawsuit alleges that Chipotle failed to provide workers with the required planning estimates and rarely gave the mandatory two weeks in advance. Chipotle has also allegedly created false documents showing that as a result of these violations, employees “waived” the bonus payment to which they were entitled. And the lawsuit alleges that Chipotle did not systematically go to current employees to offer them more shifts before hiring new ones – another statutory requirement – and “left thousands of employees in an involuntary part-time limbo”.

This is an ongoing problem, according to the lawsuit, which found that “while Chipotle has made some effort to achieve compliance by September 2019, there are significant non-compliance”.

The company did not comment on the specific allegations made in the lawsuit. “We have made it a practice not to and will not comment on litigation in this case, except to say that the DCWP case today is a dramatic overrun,” said Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer of Chipotle, in a statement. “Chipotle will be vigorously defending itself,” she added.

In addition to violating planning laws, Chipotle violated the city’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Act. Between April 2014 and January 2020, Chipotle’s policy only allowed employees 24 hours of sick leave instead of the legal minimum of 40 hours, according to the complaint. And the company allegedly illegally refused to allow employees to take time off to care for other sick people.

The department began investigating Chipotle’s labor practices in 2018 after receiving complaints from more than 30 employees who said Chipotle was failing to comply with the Fair Work Week Act. A lawsuit was filed against the company in 2019 related to these complaints.

“Unfortunately, since we first filed our case against Chipotle, we have learned that these initial charges were only the tip of the iceberg,” Lorelei Salas, the commissioner of the department that brought the case, said in a statement. The lawsuit filed this week replaces the 2019 lawsuit, a department spokesman said.

“This case illustrates the abusive practices that this law seeks to end,” she added, and said, “Chipotle must comply.”

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