Food with integrity? | Chipotle to pay $2.9m in settlement over violations of Seattle labor laws

Chipotle to pay $2.9m in settlement over violations of Seattle labor laws

Chipotle Mexican Grill has agreed to pay $2.9million to 1,853 employees across eight locations in Seattle as part of a settlement with the city over allegations of violating local rules on sick time and shift changes.

Additionally, the fast-food chain will pay about $7,300 to the city of Seattle.

The settlement, nearly $3million, represents the largest since the city’s Secure Scheduling Ordinance went into effect in July 2017, as noted by the Seattle Office of Labor Standards in a news release Thursday morning about the investigation.

The failure of employers to pay employees what they’re legally owed — wage theft — affects workers across industries. According to a Seattle Times report earlier this month, no industry generates more wage theft complaints in Washington than the food service industry.

Allegations against Chipotle outlets in Seattle included failure to provide paid sick and safe time accrued at the correct rate, retaliation against an employee for calling out sick, retaliation against an employee for declining to work or consent to a shift change made with fewer than 14 days’ notice, and retaliation against an employee for requesting not to be scheduled at certain times in conflict with a second job.

Read more from us

As part of the settlement, the fast-casual chain also agreed to develop and implement a written Secure Scheduling Ordinance policy, the OLS release said.

According to a statement from chief corporate affairs officer Laurie Schalow, Chipotle has “implemented a number of compliance initiatives, including adding new and improved time-keeping technology, to help our restaurants” as a result of the investigation.

“We look forward to continuing to promote the goals of predictable scheduling and access to work hours for those who want them.”

The statement noted that Chipotle offers employees three paid sick days with no waiting period, calling this “beyond the standard practice for most industries,” and that the average hourly wage for the company’s workers in Seattle is $20.20.

Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance requires employers of more than 250 full-time workers worldwide to allow those workers to bank one hour of sick/safe time per every 30 hours of work; and Seattle’s current minimum wage for businesses with at least 501 employees is $19.97.

The Chipotle chain has more than 115,000 employees at more than 3,400 restaurants worldwide, according to a March news release from the corporation.

“Restaurants have been doing this sort of thing for a really long time,” former Chipotle employee Colin Cahill said of the alleged violations, “especially fast-food chains.”

Cahill said he and his Seattle co-workers were required to come into work “with basically no notice” — sometimes within one day of the schedule being changed — “which just meant that we couldn’t lead lives outside of the restaurant.”

“I’m glad that there are finally laws being passed — and laws being upheld — that are protecting workers and are giving us conditions in which to work that are not only reasonable, but are actually upholding our humanity,” Cahill said.

American workers who claim lost wages can file private lawsuits or complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor, while the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries handles complaints at the state level.

In Seattle, workers can file with the OLS, which prioritizes investigations in industries like food, construction, and health care that are rife with labor standards violations.

Washington restaurant workers filed more than 3,000 wage complaints with L&I from 2018 to 2022.

National labor experts say the restaurant industry, with its many small businesses, is consistently among the worst offenders for these violations.



You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for the next 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.