Chipotle hit with Fair Workweek lawsuit in NYC

The city alleges Chipotle violated “nearly every aspect” of the law, which guarantees predictable schedules for quick-service employees.
Photograph courtesy of Chipotle Mexican Grill Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Tuesday became the first restaurant chain to be targeted under New York City’s Fair Workweek Law, with the city filing suit against the fast-casual chain for “widespread violations” of its predictable scheduling rule.

The lawsuit, filed at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, alleges Chipotle violated “nearly every aspect” of the law, including failing to provide good faith estimates of work schedules, failing to provide schedules two weeks in advance, failing to get consent or pay premiums for last-minute schedule changes or working closing to opening, and failing to offer newly available shifts to current employees.

The lawsuit is based on complaints filed by more than 30 workers from five Chipotle units in Brooklyn, according to a statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. Eleven Chipotle locations in Manhattan are also under investigation by the city for similar alleged violations.

For its part, Chipotle said it has been “working cooperatively” with the city to put processes in place to comply with the law and address any prior “noncompliance concerns.”

“We believe the filing of charges was unnecessary,” Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief reputation officer, said in a statement to RB. “Chipotle employees know that Chipotle is committed to creating a safe and engaging work environment.  They also know that Chipotle is committed to complying with all laws, rules and regulations pertinent to our business. That’s why Chipotle gives workers industry-leading benefits such as tuition reimbursement up to $5,250 per year, competitive health benefits and quarterly bonuses for all employees, including hourly crew members, up to a month’s worth of pay per year.”

Chipotle stock, which recently hit an all-time high, was down more than 5% midday Tuesday on the news.

NYC’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is seeking at least $1 million in restitution for workers, as well as civil penalties.

“In New York City, predictable schedules for fast-food and retail workers are a right, not a privilege,” de Blasio said in a statement. “No corporation can get away with blatantly violating the rights of New York City workers without consequences. Chipotle must immediately stop their unfair labor practices and put their employees above profit.”

Late last year, a coalition of restaurant groups challenged NYC’s predictive-scheduling law. New York’s Fair Workweek Law began being enforced in November 2017. Similar laws have been adopted or proposed in a number of jurisdictions around the country.

The Restaurant Law Center, an advocacy group affiliated with but separate from the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement that it's too early to try to punish chains under a law that is being reviewed by the courts. 

“The Fair Workweek Law is currently under review by the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, because the Restaurant Law Center, among others, has repeatedly documented in court that the law violates the state constitution and the municipal home rule law," Angelo Amador, the Center's executive director, said in a statement. “Because these questions are unresolved, the judicial process should be completed before punitive enforcement action is taken.” 


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