Popular fast-food chain Chipotle faces New York City lawsuit.
New York City has sued the popular food chain Chipotle, seeking $150 million for employees and accusing the company of a “complete disregard” for mandates pertaining to the Fair Workweek Law. Chipotle allegedly modified employees’ schedules without sufficient notice or pay, causing “hundreds of thousands of violations of a fair scheduling law” at many of its locations. Lobbying by the Service Employees International Union local, 32BJ, caused this law to initially take effect in 2017.
Fair Workweek Law requires that employers provide employees in advance with their schedules and good faith estimates of anticipated weekly work hours. Violations specifically include changing employees’ schedules without notice or extra pay, requiring employees to work consecutive shifts without time off or extra pay, and failure to offer employees additional shifts before hiring new workers.
Moreover, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Paid Sick Leave Law in 2020, allowing New Yorkers to receive paid leave. This requires employers with five or more employees or net income of more than $1 million to provide paid sick leave and for employers with fewer than five employees and a net income of $1 million or less to provide unpaid sick leave. The City contends that Chipotle also disregarded this law.
According to the complaint, all of the estimated 6,500 Chipotle employees in New York City from November 2017 to September 2019 were affected by improper scheduling and sick leave practices, and “on average, they experienced more than three scheduling violations a week…Workers are owed over $150 million in relief for the violations.” The City contends “Chipotle illegally denied requests for time off, required workers to find their own replacements or did not pay workers for time they took.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Chipotle’s flagrant disregard for our laws and for their employees is unacceptable. Workers deserve reliable schedules, and we will do everything in our power to hold them accountable.”
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, which brought the suit, said that Chipotle had made some attempt to comply since 2019, but there were still issues that were not being addressed.
The Department’s commissioner, Lorelei Salas, explained, “Since we first filed our case against Chipotle, we have unfortunately learned that those initial charges were just the tip of the iceberg.” The complaint reads further, “Chipotle failed to produce certain categories of scheduling information the department requested, in part because it had destroyed paper schedule records. However, the evidence Chipotle did produce, as well as evidence that employees provided, shows that Chipotle did not begin to implement key elements of the Fair Workweek Law in any of its New York City locations until approximately September 2019.”
Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, called the move a “dramatic overreach” and said the company “would vigorously defend itself…Chipotle remains committed to its employees and their right to a fair, just and humane work environment that provides opportunities to all.”