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Chipotle’s new safety move: rolling out paid sick leave

chipotle workers line

Chipotle Mexican Grill is extending paid sick leave to all of its restaurant employees as an additional safeguard against making customers sick.

The move was disclosed yesterday in a statement detailing what the chain will discuss with employees during the closing of all 1,900 Chipotle restaurants in the United States on Feb. 8. It revealed that the stores will be shut for lunch that day rather than during a slack time.

The chain said it will thank employees for “their extraordinary work” and review what steps are being taken to avert another food contamination like the norovirus contamination last month in Boston or earlier problems with E.coli in nine states.

It also revealed that management will share with the employees what the home office has learned about the possible causes of the outbreaks. Chipotle has maintained that it does not know the source of the E.coli infections and commented that the cause may never be known.

Among the safeguards to be discussed during the meeting are new prep methods. Headquarters had previously disclosed that some tasks previously performed in the units, like washing and cutting lettuce and tomatoes, will be shifted to commissaries. In addition, avocados, limes, onions and possibly other produce will be blanched in the stores, and new processes will be adopted for marinating steak and chicken.

The chainwide meeting will extend for about four hours, the company said. It indicated that employees will likely meet in outside locations rather than in the restaurants, and the information will be broadcast from Chipotle’s Denver headquarters. 

Ill employees figured into at least two of Chipotle’s 2015 food safety problems.

The chain said last summer that it would add paid sick leave for hourly employees as of an enhanced benefits package that also included paid vacations and tuition assistance. But no timetable for the adoption was revealed.

Chipotle’s sales were in a freefall at the end of 2015 because of the food safety lapses. Financial analysts pegged the decline in same-store sales for December at 30 percent.

The chain is also being investigated for possible criminal actions relating to a food safety problem at a store in Simi Valley, Calif., last summer.

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