February 26, 2020
Agreement requires Chipotle to rehire worker and provide $2500 in restitution; DCWP’s larger Fair Workweek and Paid Safe and Sick Leave investigation into Chipotle remains ongoing
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced a settlement agreement with Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. for illegally firing an employee at the East 14th Street location in Manhattan for using sick leave. In addition to retaliating against the worker for exercising her right to sick leave, which is illegal under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, DCWP’s investigation found that she was not paid for leave that she used to take care of her family and for her own illness. The worker was referred to DCWP by SEIU Local 32BJ in January, and DCWP fast-tracked the investigation to get her back to work as soon as possible.
DCWP’s settlement agreement requires Chipotle to immediately reinstate the worker at her previous pay rate, pay wages for the three times she used sick leave, pay $2,500 in restitution for being illegally fired, and remove any disciplinary records related to her use of sick leave.
“New York City is on the side of working people,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Paid Safe and Sick Leave is the law of the land, and we will continue to hold corporations accountable. Retaliating against workers for taking a sick day – something no CEO would go without – is inhumane.”
“It is infuriating to see a company repeatedly violate its employees’ rights. This law was meant to give workers time to take care of themselves and loved ones, which is exactly what this worker was doing,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We will continue to be the voice of working New Yorkers and prosecute employers who do not comply with the law. We thank 32BJ SEIU for referring the worker to us and urge any worker facing these problems at work to file a complaint with our office.”
“Chipotle persists in mistreating its workers and violating New York City laws,” 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said. “By prohibiting its workers from using the paid sick time they are entitled to by law, Chipotle continues to put both workers and customers alike at risk of illness. Chipotle must follow their own policies and the law of our City and allow their workers to take their full paid sick time.”
DCWP’s larger investigation into Chipotle’s workplace practices across New York City, including the location in this settlement, remains ongoing. In September 2019, DCWP also announced a lawsuit against five Chipotle locations in Brooklyn for widespread violations of the City’s Fair Workweek Law, which requires predictable schedules in the fast food and retail industries and a pathway to stable, full-time employment for fast food workers. DCWP also found that the locations had an illegal sick leave policy. The case is pending at the City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH).
Under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid safe and sick leave to employees. Employers with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid safe and sick leave. Covered employees have the right to use safe and sick leave for the care and treatment of themselves or a family member and to seek legal and social services assistance or take other safety measures if the employee or a family member may be the victim of any act or threat of domestic violence or unwanted sexual contact, stalking or human trafficking.
Safe and sick leave is accrued at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per calendar year, and begins on the employee’s first day of employment. Employees can begin using accrued leave 120 days after their first day of work. For employers who do not frontload safe and sick leave on the first day of a new calendar year, employees must be able to carry over up to 40 hours of unused safe and sick leave from one calendar year to the new calendar year.
If the need to use sick leave is foreseeable, employers can require up to seven days advance notice to use safe or sick leave. If the need is unforeseeable, employers may require notice as soon as practicable. Employers can require reasonable documentation for more than three consecutive workdays as safe or sick leave but it is illegal to require that documentation specify the reason for using safe or sick leave. Employers may not engage in or threaten retaliation against employees, which includes firing and any act that punishes an employee for or is likely to deter an employee from exercising their rights under the Law.
All covered employers are required to provide their employees with the Notice of Employee of Rights that includes information in English and, if available on the DCWP website, the employee’s primary language. Employers must provide the notice on the first day of an employee’s employment. Employers must have a written sick leave policy that meets or exceeds the requirements of the Law.
Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/workers or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information, including the required Notice of Employee Rights , one-page overviews for employers and employees, and the complaint form. DCWP also developed tools to help employers keep track of employees’ hours worked and safe and sick leave used, as well as model forms for verification of authorized safe and sick time used, safe and sick time.
Since the law went into effect, DCWP has received more than 2,090 complaints about Paid Safe and Sick Leave, closed more than 1,810 investigations, and obtained resolutions requiring more than $11,850,000 combined fines and restitution for more than 35,760 workers. DCWP’s case was handled by Supervising Investigator Juana Abreu and Director of Investigations Elizabeth Wagoner of DCWP’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which is led by Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Holt.
“New York City remains committed to protecting the rights of our vibrant and diverse workforce,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat. “We collectively stood against the unfair treatment of workers and violations of New York City’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law and commend parties involved on the decision to reach an agreement in this case. As the investigation continues, we must ensure guidelines that will guarantee individuals adequate time to care for themselves and their families without penalty.”
“Chipotle's repeated violations of our Fair Workweek and Paid Sick Leave laws demonstrate an outrageous disregard for the rights and dignity of their workers, not to mention the health and safety of their customers. Paid sick leave is good for workers, good for businesses, and good for public health. I'm grateful for the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection's rapid response to reinstate this worker with back pay. Thanks to the bravery of workers who are speaking up and sharing their stories, organizing by SEIU 32BJ, and the diligent enforcement by DCWP, we are raising the cost of abusing workers and changing standards in the industry." Council Member Brad Lander.
“It is absolutely egregious that Chipotle would illegally fire this worker for using sick leave, and I want to thank DCWP for reaching this settlement to ensure this employee is reinstated and received benefits and restitution. We can’t let businesses in my district or anywhere in this city violate laws and agreements that are meant to protect the basic rights of our workers. I look forward to working with DCWP and 32BJ to ensure Chipotle and other companies are always providing the paid sick leave that employees deserve,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.
“New Yorkers fought hard to pass the important protections offered by the city’s paid safe and sick leave law, but these protections are severely undermined when employers retaliate against workers who attempt to use them,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, attorney and the director of Work Quality at the National Employment Law Project. “This settlement agreement is not only important in vindicating this employee’s rights, it sends a strong message to employers that they must respect the law.”
"We at the National Domestic Workers Alliance applaud the work DCWP has been doing to enforce and protect paid safe and sick time for New Yorkers that need it the most. Workers need to be able to take sick time from work without the fear of losing a days pay or the fear of being terminated. It is very important for workers in NYC to be able to take the time needed to rest or go to the doctor. The worst fear any employer should have is the fear of an employee making others ill because they showed up to work sick. Workers are human beings and deserve the right to be able to take care of themselves and heal when they are not well enough to show up to work. Employers need to honor and value Paid Sick Time!" said Allison Julien and Marrisa Senteno, Co-Directors of NDWA New York Chapter.
“A Better Balance was proud to help lead the coalition that worked to enact New York City’s Paid Sick and Safe Leave law, which ensures our City’s workers need not choose between their job and their health or caring for a sick loved one. We are happy to see rigorous enforcement of this law holding businesses that deprive workers of paid sick time accountable and sending a message to workers that their rights will be protected," said Sherry Leiwant, Co-Founder and Co-President of A Better Balance.