Case Against Chipotle Highlights Wage Theft Issues
Employees claim that they were forced to work off-the-clock
It’s time to clock out, but that doesn’t mean you can go home.
That’s the message thousands of current and former employees of the Chipotle restaurant chain claim they were given when they were repeatedly forced to work off-the-clock. Now they’re suing the company, alleging that they were victims of wage theft.
Some employees claim that they were shorted hundreds or even thousands of hours’ worth of pay over several years.
Why would people continue to work for free? In this case, the workers claim that they were afraid they’d lose their jobs or opportunities for advancement if they complained.
Unfortunately, this sort of fear often keeps employees from speaking up about unlawful situations.
The same story, told 10,000 times
When Leah Turner started working at Chipotle, she was told that she had the potential to advance within the company. She wanted to make a good impression so she didn’t argue when, on her first day, she was told to clock out but continue working.
After it happened several more times, Turner says that she realized the company had a strict emphasis on keeping labor costs down.
As Turner moved up through the ranks, she claims that not only was she forced to work off-the-clock, but she was forced to make her subordinates do the same.
Several years went by before Turner decided that she’d had enough. She sought legal representation and filed a lawsuit against the company.
Other Chipotle workers began coming out of the woodwork. Nearly 10,000 current and former Chipotle employees from across the country joined the suit.
In addition to management policies, the lawsuit states that the company’s timekeeping system helps contribute to the alleged wage theft epidemic. Reason: The automated system clocks people out by 12:30 AM, though employees often must work for another hour or more past that time.
Chipotle blames the problem on a few rogue managers. However, the lawsuit argues that the problem stems from the corporate level, as evidence by the number of employees involved, located in nearly every state the restaurant does business in.
You can’t be forced to work for free
So what do employees need to know to ensure that this doesn’t happen to them? Here are a few things to remember:
- You don’t have to work for free. Full- and part-time non-exempt employees may not be forced to work off-the-clock.
- You must be paid with money. Comp time, merchandise, or other gifts or perks are not considered to be lawful compensation.
- Overtime must also be paid with money. If you’re a non-exempt employee and you’ve worked more than 40 hours in a week, you must be paid time-and-a-half for that time. Once again, that compensation must be in the form of money, rather than gifts or perks.
- You cannot be forced to waive these rights. Federal law does not allow employees to waive their rights to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Questions? Call us now
If you believe that you’ve been the victim of wage theft, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.