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NYC sues Chipotle over alleged violations of employee workweek laws

NYC sues Chipotle over alleged violations of employee workweek laws
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New York City has sued the popular restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill over multiple violations of laws regulating employee workweeks.

The suit was filed by the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, according to the complaint.

The case was first reported by The New York Times.

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The suit alleges that the restaurant violated the Fair Workweek Law by changing schedules without sufficient notice or extra pay, requiring employees to work extra shifts without time off and failing to offer current employees additional shifts before hiring new employees to work them.

The violations allegedly occurred from November 2017 to September 2019, according to the lawsuit. The complaint says that despite the company’s attempts to comply with the law, some violations still occurred.

The suit further alleges that the company violated the Paid Safe and Sick Leave law from when it was passed in 2014 through at least January 2020 by only providing 24 hours of paid sick time and not 40 hours. It also alleges that employees experienced retaliation when they needed to take sick time off.

New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNYC planning mega-concert to celebrate reopening Ocasio-Cortez endorses Maya Wiley in NYC mayoral race Former 'Real Housewives' star exits New York mayoral race MORE (D) 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. This is about protecting workers’ rights," de Blasio said in a statement.

The complaint is the largest the city has brought under the law, according to the the Times.

The city alleges that workers are owed over $150 million in relief for the violations, which could further be exceeded by financial penalties.

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Violations of the law come with a fine of between $200 to $500 per employee, per instance for each violation, and a separate civil penalty of $500 per employee per instance, according to the suit. 

All of the company's New York City employees — around 6,500 — were affected by the violations, the suit alleges.

In a statement to The Hill, Chipotle’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Laurie Schalow said the company would not comment on the case, except to say that the filing is “a dramatic overreach and Chipotle will 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,” Schalow said. 

The city previously sued in September 2019 alleging that 2,600 workers were affected by various violations.

Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Lorelei Salas said in a statement to The Hill that the initial suit was the "tip of the iceberg."  

"Since we first filed our case against Chipotle, we have unfortunately learned that those initial charges were just the tip of the iceberg," Salas said.  "The pervasiveness of Chipotle’s complete disregard for the City’s Fair Workweek Law extends to every aspect of the law in every corner of our city—to more than 6,500 workers who experienced multiple violations of the law every week. 

"This case exemplifies the abusive practices that this law is intended to end, and Chipotle must come into compliance," Salas said.

In February 2020, the city settled with Chipotle for allegedly firing an employee in Manhattan for using paid sick leave.

-- Updated 7:14 p.m.