September 10, 2019
First lawsuit against corporately-owned fast food chain under City’s Fair Workweek Law
NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced a lawsuit against Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (Chipotle) 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.
“In New York City, predictable schedules for fast food and retail workers are a right, not a privilege,” said Mayor de Blasio. “No corporation can get away with blatantly violating the rights of New York City workers without consequences. Chipotle must immediately stop their unfair labor practices and put their employees above profit.”
“It is disappointing that numerous Chipotle locations are ignoring the City’s Fair Workweek Law and continuing to take advantage of their workers,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “This case exemplifies the abusive practices that this law is intended to end, and Chipotle must come into compliance. I encourage all fast food workers to come forward if their right to a predictable schedule or new shift is being violated.”
"I used to work at the 185 Montague Street Chipotle. I started out as a takeout specialist and I became a service manager. In my time at this Chipotle store, I saw the company violate not one, but all the tenets of the Fair Workweek Law," said Steve Vidal, former Chipotle worker.
The lawsuit, which has been filed at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), alleges that Chipotle violated nearly every aspect of the City’s Fair Workweek Law, including failing to provide good faith estimates of work schedules and schedules two weeks in advance, failing to get consent and pay premiums for last minute schedule changes and for working “clopenings,” and failing to offer newly available shifts to current employees. DCWP also found that Chipotle had an illegal sick leave policy. More than 30 workers from five different Chipotle locations in Brooklyn filed complaints with DCWP about ongoing violations of the Fair Workweek Law.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is seeking at least $1 million in restitution for workers plus civil penalties and future compliance with the requirements of the Fair Workweek Law. DCWP has also launched an investigation into 11 Chipotle locations in Manhattan for similar alleged violations under the Fair Workweek Law.
Under the Fair Workweek Law, fast food employers in New York City must give workers good faith estimates of when and how much they will work, predictable work schedules, and the opportunity to work newly available shifts before hiring new workers. Fast food employers also cannot schedule workers to work a clopening unless workers consent in writing and are paid a $100 premium to work the shift. Under the Law, retail employers must also give workers advanced notice of work schedules and may not schedule workers for on-call shifts or change workers’ schedules with inadequate notice. The required You Have a Right to a Predictable Work Schedule must be posted in any language that is the primary language of at least five percent of the workers at the workplace if available on DCWP’s website. Since the law went into effect, DCWP has received more than 250 complaints about Fair Workweek, closed more than 100 investigations, and obtained resolutions requiring more than $1 million combined fines and restitution for more than 2,600 workers. Workers can file a complaint online at nyc.gov/workers or by calling 311. Complaints can be filed anonymously.
DCWP’s lawsuit is being handled by Agency Attorney Hillary Scrivani supervised by Senior Enforcement Counsel Haeya Yim and Director of Litigation Claudia Henriquez, of the Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS). The investigation was conducted by OLPS Investigator Tat Chun Lau supervised by Supervising Investigator Juana Abreu and Director of Investigations Elizabeth Wagoner. OLPS is led by Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Holt.
“Worker protection laws mean nothing if companies can get away with violating them. I am proud of these workers for standing up and asserting their rights, and am glad that the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is taking on this case. It is completely unacceptable that Chipotle has knowingly violated the Fair Workweek Law, going so far as to commit forgery. I join the Commissioner in encouraging other workers to come forward, and hope that Chipotle will swiftly rectify this injustice,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.
“Being able to organize your life around a known work schedule with advance notice is critical for all workers, especially working parents and people with multiple jobs. The Fair Workweek Law aimed to end the abusive practices that made it hard for workers to live their lives and make ends meet. Thank you to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for ensuring that Chipotle won’t get away with denying its workers these critical rights, and to the many workers who spoke up and shared their stories,” said Council Member Brad Lander.
“Unpredictable work schedules wreak havoc on low-income workers and their families, forcing an impossible balancing act between work and personal lives. Chipotle is worth more than $23 billion dollars and it’s outrageous that they won’t treat their employees in New York fairly. I’m grateful to Mayor de Blasio and DCWP Commissioner Salas for fighting to enforce New York City’s Fair Workweek Law and end these abusive practices,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
"Working while raising a child is difficult, but raising a child while working at a job with unpredictable scheduling and paychecks is virtually impossible," State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said. "Years ago, fast food and retail positions were held mostly by young people who were still in school and had yet to start a family. Today, that has changed. The national average worker age is now 29 and a significant percentage of those workers are raising children. This package will ensure workers are treated with respect by being given enough notice of their work schedule and earnings to plan accordingly. These men and women are hard workers, but they also have a right to be devoted parents who can plan for childcare or further their education without worrying they will be called into work unexpectedly."
"Fair Workweek legislation is a true milestone towards achieving more equitable rights for our retail and fast food workers. I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and labor advocates for bringing this fight to the forefront. The quality of life for 65,000 workers and financial planning opportunities for thousands of families are about to take a turn for the better. I am proud to stand in support of this common-sense legislation that will prevent work exploitation and allow workers to take control of their present, and plan for the future,” said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright.
“It is unacceptable for Chipotle to flout the City’s Fair Workweek Law and take advantage of their workers,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. “The ability to plan around a predictable work schedule is of the utmost importance for New Yorkers with busy lives. I am glad that the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is holding Chipotle accountable and standing up for workers’ rights.”
“The Fair Workweek Law's provisions are meant to stabilize fast food workers’ volatile schedules and create a path to full-time hours,” said 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said. “Chipotle not only violated the city's groundbreaking Fair Workweek Law at five different stores in Brooklyn, they are refusing to respond to the city's findings. We thank the City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for living up to its name by taking action.”
"A Better Balance was proud to be a part of the coalition that worked to enact the Fair Workweek Law, to ensure low wage workers are protected from abusive scheduling practices that make it difficult to work and care for a family. We applaud the City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for robustly enforcing this law, investigating violations and holding businesses accountable—this lawsuit sends the message that no business is exempt from respecting their workers' rights," said Sherry Leiwant, Co-President, A Better Balance.
"No employer is above the law and Chipotle needs to be held accountable for their abusive treatment of workers," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). "All workers deserve fair schedules and adequate rest in between shifts. The Chipotle workers should be proud for standing up for their rights. Unfortunately, retail workers remain on the frontlines of an economy that oftentimes abuses or renders them invisible. In order to change this, we stand with the Chipotle workers and all retail workers for stable employment and dignity at work."
"Our research has documented that worker protections such as Fair Workweek laws don't have their intended effect without adequate enforcement and awareness," said David R. Jones President, and CEO of Community Service Society, a leading anti-poverty organization. "We applaud the city's enforcement actions against Chipotle to protect fast food workers' right to a predictable schedule. This is a major step towards holding Chipotle accountable for their exploitative scheduling practices and starting the process of restitution for workers. But it is also a signal to other employers that the city is taking enforcement of Fair Workweek laws seriously, raising awareness of these laws-and the consequences of non-compliance-to both employers and workers across the city."