Chipotle Employees Sue Company for Withholding Wages

fried fish burrito, by Flickr user theCSSdiv, licensed by Creative Commons.

No Free Burritos!

Chipotle Mexican Grill has long been known for delicious burritos and fresh ingredients. But as of late, the Colorado-based restaurant chain has come under fire for the way they treat their employees. Hundreds of Chipotle employees from across the country have recently filed lawsuits against the fast-food giant for allegedly cheating them out of wages. The employees claim that they were forced to work off the clock and that the company misclassified them to avoid paying overtime. The unfair wage cuts were part of an attempt to cut labor costs and increase profits.

One of nine lawsuits filed against the company came from Briana Swa, a former Chipotle manager. She said she would often clock 60-hour workweeks and would not be paid above 40 hours due to company policy. She, along with her coworkers did not receive pay for cleaning up after the store closed or attending mandatory meetings. Many of the time-keeping lawsuits alleged that the computer system automatically clocks employees out after 40 hours, despite overtime. Chipotle’s managers also received bonuses for keeping labor costs low, which only increased incentives for cutting hours.

The recent lawsuits call into question the validity of Chipotle’s company policy of refusing to pay overtime. Upon investigating several locations, the Department of Labor found a culture of off the clock work in many stores across the country. One sample of 24 locations found that 36 employees were owed $19,440 in unpaid wages since 2006. The Chipotle lawsuits are only one example of the spike in employee lawsuits over the past decade. According to federal judicial caseload statistics, lawsuits over unpaid wages have risen by 137 percent since 2004. Hopefully increased regulation by the Department of Labor and modifications to company policy can get employees the wages they deserve.

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