Chipotle Mexican Grill, the fast-casual Tex-Mex chain, has agreed to a $20 million settlement with the city amid city allegations that it violated workplace protection laws regarding fair hours and paid sick leave.
The payment, the result of a four-year investigation and a complaint filed by the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection in 2018 through the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, is the largest settlement such, according to DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga.
About 13,000 workers will receive restitution under the deal, which will be distributed in the coming weeks, according to DCWP officials. As part of the deal, Chipotle also agreed to pay an additional $1 million in civil penalties to the city.
“It seems almost unreal. When you’re in the thick of it, like going to work every day and following the moves, you think nobody’s paying attention,” Chipotle worker Yeral Martinez said in a statement. “But this settlement proves that we are not invisible. Companies cannot treat their workers as disposable. We are worthy of respect, dignity and fair hours! »
Vera Mayuga and Mayor Eric Adams announced the settlement at a press conference in the City Hall rotunda on Tuesday afternoon.
“Our investigation found that Chipotle failed to give employees advance notice of their work schedules, forced employees to work longer hours without their prior consent, failed to properly compensate workers for job changes schedule, did not offer available shifts to current employees before hiring new employees, and did not allow employees to use accrued paid sick and security leave,” Vera Mayuda said Tuesday. .
“I am pleased to report that we have reached a settlement that will put money back in the pockets of these workers – a settlement that is the largest fair workweek settlement in the country,” she added. .
A Chipotle official also expressed satisfaction with the settlement.
“We are excited to be able to resolve these issues and believe this settlement demonstrates Chipotle’s commitment to providing opportunities for all of our team members while upholding the Fair Work Week Act,” said Scott Boatwright, director. of the Chipotle restaurant, in a statement Tuesday.
New laws enforced
The city’s investigation into Chipotle’s workplace practices dates back to 2017. The DCWP filed its first sworn complaint alleging the company’s failure to comply with the city’s Fair Work Week law and of the Paid Sick and Safety Leave Act 2018.
The Fair Workweek law, in force since 2017, obliges the management of fast-food restaurants to inform employees of the schedules at least two weeks in advance.
The Paid Sick and Safety Leave Act requires employers to provide accumulated paid sick leave, which can be used for unforeseen reasons and without notice, for the employee or a family member. The law also states that employers must provide employees with written notice outlining the benefit and how to use it.
Last April, the city filed a follow-up action alleging “systematic failures to comply” with the scheduling law, saying the company broke the law nearly 600,000 times between 2017 and 2019 in nearly 90 locations in the five boroughs.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection calculated that approximately 6,500 employees should receive nearly $150 million, or “approximately $23,061.00 in relief due per affected employee.”
While Tuesday’s settlement covers twice that number of employees, encompassing all Chipotle workers across the city, the $20 million settlement totals well under that amount.
Current and former workers employed by the company in New York from November 26, 2017 through April 30, 2022 will receive $50 in compensation for each week worked. For example, a worker who has been employed for a full year during this period will receive a check for $2,600.
In response to questions from THE CITY, Vera Mayuda reiterated the city’s satisfaction with the agreement, saying, “It’s the fastest way to relieve workers.
Tuesday’s settlement does not cover any potential violations of the city’s Just Cause law, which took effect in July 2021 and requires workers to be given valid reasons for layoffs and other dismissals. Vera Mayuga said the agency is “actively investigating” alleged violations of this law.
Chipotle workers across New York have been organizing for several years, organizing outings from Washington Heights to Queens Center Mall. They allege unfair working conditions that allegedly violate the Fair Work Week Act — such as last-minute schedule changes — as well as harassment and high turnover.
Chipotle workers are non-unionized, but work closely with 32BJ-SEIU. The union has accelerated its efforts in the fast-food chain because the outposts are owned by the company, rather than individual franchisees as in chains such as McDonald’s.
In April, THE CITY reported the story of Brenda Garcia, who claimed she faced retaliation for leading union efforts at the Roosevelt Ave outpost. where she worked. Garcia was reinstated two weeks after his dismissal.
Last month, Chipotle closed a Maine outpost where workers had filed for a union election.
In 2019, the NLRB filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit against Chipotle, alleging the company bullied and fired a worker for complaining about workplace issues and discussing union activities.
NLRB General Counsel at the time, Donald Trump-appointed Peter Robb, claimed in the case that management “threatened to fire employees if they engaged in union activity – even implying that they could be physically abused — and promised promotions to other workers who provided information about the organization,” CNBC reported at the time. That case was settled in October 2020.
Mayor Eric Adams highlighted the role of municipal laws in ensuring employee well-being.
“Workers must be able to plan their lives…. Many are parents, many are sole breadwinners,” Adams told reporters gathered in the City Hall Rotunda. “That’s why we will continue to ensure they receive the benefits they deserve.”