New York City Doubles Down on Labor Lawsuit Against Chipotle

After suing Chipotle for labor violations two years ago, New York City alleges the chain still hasn't fixed the issue.

New York City doesn't appear to be too pleased with Chipotle Mexican Grill. Back in 2019, the city sued the popular burrito chain for violating its Fair Workweek Law—passed in 2017—which protects fast food workers' "right to a predictable work schedule." Now, two years later, not only has that lawsuit not been resolved, but the city is replacing it with a bigger suit—referred to by the New York Times as "the largest action the city has brought under the law"—and it could cost Chipotle hundreds of millions of dollars.

This latest legal action, filed this week, alleges that Chipotle owes workers across New York City's roughly 90 locations $151 million in relief for violating a number of the Fair Workweek Law's provisions. And from there, additional financial penalties could reportedly more than double the total amount Chipotle is required to pay.

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According to CNN, NYC's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection claims to have uncovered upwards of 600,000 violations across New York City's 6,500 Chipotle employees from November 2017 until at least September 2019. The allegations include not giving workers a required two-weeks advanced notice of their schedules, having employees work multiple shifts without sufficient time off, failing to provide the additional pay required in these kinds of situations, and failing to offer existing employees additional shifts before hiring new employees—a move that left "thousands of employees in an involuntary part-time limbo."

Adding to Chipotle's troubles, the lawsuit claims that "although Chipotle made some efforts to come into compliance beginning in September 2019, it remains out of compliance in significant ways." So even after the initial suit, New York City seems to believe the burrito chain didn't take the actions required to address the situation.

"Since we first filed our case against Chipotle, we have unfortunately learned that those initial charges were just the tip of the iceberg," Lorelei Salas, commissioner of the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, explained in a statement provided to CNN. "This case exemplifies the abusive practices that this law is intended to end."

​Mayor Bill de Blasio added, "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."

In Chipotle's defense, the company's chief corporate affairs officer, Laurie Schalow, told CNN, "We make it a practice to not comment on litigation and will not do so in this case, except to say the proceeding filed today by DCWP is a dramatic overreach." She then added, "Chipotle will vigorously defend itself."

Meanwhile, these multiple run-ins with the City of New York aren't Chipotle's only government tussles over labor laws. Last year, the chain reached a $2 million settlement with the state of Massachusetts over labor violations that included overworking 16- and 17-year-old employees.

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