Chipotle settles with city in paid sick leave battle, war continues

Stephon Johnson | 3/5/2020, midnight
City Hall went to bat for a Chipotle employee and won.
Chipotle Wikipedia

City Hall went to bat for a Chipotle employee and won.

Recently, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Lorelei Salas announced that the city reached a settlement agreement with Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. over illegally firing an employee at the East 14th Street location in Manhattan. Chipotle management punished the employee for using sick leave.

As part of the settlement agreement, Chipotle is required to reinstate the worker at their previous pay rate, pay the worker wages for the three times they used sick leave, remove any disciplinary records related to their sick leave and pay the worker $2,500 in restitution for having been illegally terminated.

De Blasio said that the settlement agreement is an example of New York City being on the side of working-class New Yorkers.

“Paid Safe and Sick Leave is the law of the land, and we will continue to hold corporations accountable,” stated de Blasio. “Retaliating against workers for taking a sick day—something no CEO would go without—is inhumane.”

“It is infuriating to see a company repeatedly violate its employees’ rights,” stated Salas. “This law was meant to give workers time to take care of themselves and loved ones, which is exactly what this worker was doing.”

This doesn’t end the city’s investigations into Chipotle elsewhere. On the same day of the settlement’s announcement, 10 Chipotle workers filed complaints with the city against the fast-food giant for forcing them to work sick, refusing to let them take sick days or firing them for doing so.

Carlos Hernandez, who works at the 680 6th Avenue location, said he had issues several times during shifts that warranted him stepping away.

“Every time this happened, I went to the on-duty manager, let them know I had diarrhea, and asked to go home,” said Hernandez. “Unfortunately, every time I did this, the manager merely told me to switch from the grill, where I normally work, to washing dishes or working the cash register.”

Last fall, the city filed a lawsuit on behalf of employees at five Chipotle locations in Brooklyn. The lawsuit (that’s still pending) accuses them of violating most of the tenets of the Fair Workweek Law.

Under the Fair Workweek Law, fast-food employers in New York City are required to give workers proper estimates of when and how much they’ll work in a week, provide predictable schedules and shifts with premium pay for any schedule changes, and give employees the opportunity to work any newly available shifts before hiring more employees, with bans on “clopenings” (when employees work from opening to closing).

32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said that Chipotle continues to not learn its lesson or doesn’t care about the state of their employees.

“Chipotle persists in mistreating its workers and violating New York City laws,” stated Bragg. “By prohibiting its workers from using the paid sick time they are entitled to by law, Chipotle continues to put both workers and customers alike at risk of illness. Chipotle must follow their own policies and the law of our city and allow their workers to take their full paid sick time.”

Allison Julien and Marrisa Senteno, co-directors of National Domestic Workers Alliance New York Chapter, echoed similar sentiments in a joint statement.

“Workers need to be able to take sick time from work without the fear of losing a day’s pay or the fear of being terminated. It is very important for workers in NYC to be able to take the time needed to rest or go to the doctor. The worst fear any employer should have is the fear of an employee making others ill because they showed up to work sick. Workers are human beings and deserve the right to be able to take care of themselves and heal when they are not well enough to show up to work.”