In 2014, a Chipotle class action lawsuit, Turner et al. v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. was filed against Chipotle by hourly workers at its restaurants nationwide. The lawsuit was certified as a class in August, 2015. According to the New York Daily News, since the class action was certified almost 10,000 employees have joined the lawsuit. Chipotle operates more than 1,800 stores nationwide and has over 217,000 employees drawing an hourly wage in the United States.
The lawsuit alleges that Chipotle forces hourly wage employees to work without pay. Statements that were submitted by the employees that filed the suit claim that Chipotle’s time keeping system automatically punches employees out at 12:30 a.m. Even though the employees were officially off the clock, they were made to stay and finish cleaning up the restaurant. In addition, they were made to attend training sessions, staff meetings, and other work related events without pay.
Chipotle defended its actions by quoting its company policy. The class action ruling states that Chipotle uses Aloho software to track the hours that employees work and that the software sends “overtime” alerts to management to aid in management decisions. The software automatically resets at 12:30 a.m. and checks any employee that is still on the clock out. The company policy provides “that all hourly employees must record and be paid for all time worked” and “prohibits any off-the-clock work.
The plaintiffs allege that, although Chipotle does have a timekeeping policy, it is not implemented the way that it reads. The company has labor and payroll budgets that give an incentive to managers to under staff restaurants. Leah Turner, plaintiff, was employed as a manager of a Chipotle restaurant in Colorado. She stated that the company made it clear that her employment would be terminated if she allowed employees to work overtime on the clock. She said, “it was my understanding that we had to work off the clock to meet budget goals, and because bonuses for general managers were based upon labor costs.” The plaintiffs allege that these practices are used in every restaurant nationwide.
In 2014, prior to the above case, a class action with the same allegations as in the Turner case was filed in Minnesota. The judge in that case, Harris et al. v. Chipotle narrowed the class action to employees that worked or work at the Chipote’s Crystal, Minnesota restaurant. The judge in the Turner case refused to limit the locations. He stated “I reject the grudging, store-by-store approach adopted by the district court in Harris, and opt instead to give Plaintiffs all the rope they request so that their claims may be fully, if potentially not favorably, resolved.”
It will be interesting to see the outcome in this case. I would suggest that, given the huge fast food industry in the U.S., the allegations in these cases are not limited to Chipotle. It could be that more lawsuits will be filed in the future by restaurant employees in other companies that are being taken advantage of in this same manner.