NYC Chipotle employees get $20 million payout after settlement with city

Mayor Eric Adams holds Fair Workweek Settlement Press Conference. City Hall. Tuesday, August 9, 2022. Photo courtesy of Violet Mendelsund/Mayoral Photography Office.

Fast food franchise Chipotle Mexican Grill will pay out about $20 million to roughly 13,000 employees in the city who experienced violations of their right to predictable schedules and paid sick leave under the city’s Fair Workweek and Paid Safe and Sick Leave laws,” Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday.

The settlement payout, which also includes Chipotle paying $1 million in civil penalties, is the result of a Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) multiyear investigation into complaints filed by 160 Chipotle employees and by labor union 32BJ SEIU.

DCWP’s investigation found major violations of laws that affected all Chipotle employees in New York City. The settlement with Chipotle is the largest fair workweek settlement nationwide and the largest worker protection settlement in New York City history.

“Restaurants and fast food outlets are a critical part of our economy and our daily life here in New York City, but they cannot exist without the hard-working people who are cooking and serving and delivering our food,” said Mayor Adams. “Today’s settlement with Chipotle is not only a victory for workers by securing up to $20 million in relief for approximately 13,000 workers, but also sends a strong message, as the largest worker protection settlement in New York City history, that we won’t stand by when workers’ rights are violated. I thank 32BJ SEIU for helping uncover these violations and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for getting justice for these workers.”

Under the agreement, anyone who worked for Chipotle in an hourly position in New York City will receive $50 for each week worked from November 26, 2017 to April 30, 2022. For example, an employee who worked for Chipotle continuously for a year and a half (78 weeks) will receive $3,900. Employees who were employed with Chipotle on April 30, 2022 will receive a check in the mail along with a letter explaining how their amount was calculated. 

Former Chipotle employees must file a claim to receive a payment. Former employees, whose employment ended before April 30, 2022, will receive a notice by mail, email, and text message with information about how much money they will receive, how the amount was calculated, and how to file a claim online or by mail.

In 2018, DCWP initiated an investigation into Chipotle’s compliance with the Fair Workweek and the Paid Safe and Sick Leave laws at locations in Brooklyn after receiving complaints from fast food employees. In 2019, following the investigation, DCWP filed a case against Chipotle at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings for violating the Fair Workweek Law at these locations. In April 2021, after uncovering significant new information about violations across New York City, DCWP expanded the case against Chipotle to include locations citywide.

Under the Fair Workweek Law, fast food employers in New York City must give workers regular schedules, work schedules 14 days in advance that are consistent with the regular schedule, premium pay for schedule changes, the opportunity to decline to work additional time, and the opportunity to work newly available shifts before hiring new workers. 

Fast food employers also cannot schedule a “clopening” shift unless the worker consents in writing and receives a $100 premium to work the shift. Further, fast food employers cannot fire or reduce the hours of a worker by more than 15 percent without just cause or a legitimate business reason. The required “NYC Fast Food Workers’ Rights” must be posted in any language that is the primary language of at least five percent of the workers at a workplace if available on DCWP’s website. 

Chipotle Chief Restaurant Officer Scott Boatwright said the company was pleased to be able to resolve the issues and that the settlement demonstrates Chipotle’s commitment to providing opportunities for all their workers while also complying with the Fair Workweek law.

“We have implemented a number of compliance initiatives, including additional management resources and new and improved time keeping technology, to help our restaurants and we look forward to continuing to promote the goals of predictable scheduling and access to work hours for those that want them,” said Boatwright.

Under the Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, all employers in New York City must provide safe and sick leave to employees. 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. 

Since the Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law went into effect in April 2014, DCWP has received more than 2,663 complaints about paid safe and sick time, closed more than 2,337 investigations, and obtained resolutions requiring more than $16.8 million combined fines and restitution for more than 44,873 workers, not including the compensation employees will receive under this agreement.

Workers can file a complaint online or call 311 if they believe their rights have been violated. Complaints can be filed anonymously. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for filing complaints.