10,000 employees join suit alleging Chipotle wage theft

Posted at 12:55 PM, Sep 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-01 21:21:20-04

DENVER -- Close to 10,000 current and former Chipotle workers have joined a Colorado woman’s class-action lawsuit alleging employees were forced to work off the clock without pay.

Leah Turner, a former manager at a Parker Chipotle restaurant, initially filed an individual federal lawsuit in March 2013, but it was dismissed. Her attorneys filed the class-action suit in September 2014.

Turner, who was an hourly, non-exempt employee at the store from March 2010 to May 2011, claims she was forced to clock out after working 40 hours in a week, but was required to continue working and attending after-hours meetings without pay.

"I did it because I was tired of getting taken advantage of," said Turner. "My general manager at the time would call me and tell me to pull my labor reports, and if our labor percentage was over a certain amount, she would start having me clock out and having other employees clock out. And we would continue to work until we finished our stuff for the day."

The suit claimed workers’ overtime also was moved to subsequent weeks but paid out as straight wages so general managers could maintain a healthy balance between payroll and overhead.

It says that the pressure on managers to keep employee payroll costs down weighed into promotions within individual stores and possibly the company.

Denver-based attorney Andrew Quisenberry, who is among the lawyers representing clients in the case, told Denver7 reporter Jaclyn Allen that the number of people who have joined the suit means the accusations levied were happening nationwide.

"It was preached to us over and over about 'Food with Integrity,' and yeah, it’s kind of a double standard there," said Turner, who added that she hopes to send a message with her lawsuit. "I hope they stop taking advantage of people, and they do the right thing. People work hard for their money."

A spokesman for Chipotle, which operates out of Denver, maintained Thursday the company believes the case has no merit, pointing out that the 10,000 who have joined the suit represent only about 3.5 percent of current and past employees.

"A lawsuit is nothing more than allegations, no way means that we have done anything wrong," said Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold.

But it is the latest black eye for the company, which has been plagued with negative press in the past year.

An E. coli outbreak last year sickened dozens of people in several states, and a former employee won a lawsuit earlier this year after a judge determined she was discriminated against for being pregnant.

The case is now entering its discovery phase.


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