Could Chipotle Face a Federal Investigation for Wage Theft?

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a Democrat serving Connecticut, has called for the Labor Department to investigate the fast food chain Chipotle for wage theft.

Leah Turner, a former manager at a Chipotle location in Colorado, sued the company for unpaid wages two years ago. Since she filed the complaint, nearly 10,000 plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit. 

Some workers say that, despite the fact that many shifts are supposed to end between 11pm and 12am, they were forced to stay later. They say Chipotle’s time-clock system is programmed to automatically clock workers out at 12:30am at many locations, which prevented them from receiving the proper wages.

DeLauro has sent a letter to David Weil, the director of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, asking for an investigation into Chipotle's labor practices. “Wage and hour violations pose a serious and growing problem for working Americans across industries and wage theft disproportionately affects low-wage, hourly workers," she wrote.

This isn't the first time Chipotle has been hit with such allegations. In 2014, the company was sued by former Minnesota employee Deshandre Woodards, who said, like the aforementioned workers, he was expected to complete tasks while off the clock. The suit also claimed that employees were forced to attend meetings, but not allowed to clock in for them. Woodards says he complained about the treatment and was criticized for not being a "team player."

Chipotle claims that if such infractions are taking place, it's merely because a small number of managers aren't abiding by company policies. However, Kent Williams of Williams Law Firm, who is representing the employees, says the problems runs much deeper than a few bad apples. "Chipotle has argued this is a few rogue managers who aren't following policy. Our view, especially given the number of people opting in, is that it's a systematic problem at Chipotle," he told CNN.

This all comes at a time when Chipotle is trying repair its image and revive sales. The chain just settled out of court with over 100 people who became sick after eating at the restaurant. Outbreaks of E. coli, norovirus and salmonella infected customers last year. The details of the settlements are confidential.


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