Chipotle's presumably already busy legal department just got another big file dropped on its desk.
According to the Asbury Park Press, a New Jersey woman who worked for the burrito chain filed a class action lawsuit against Chipotle on Wednesday that could affect thousands of employees.
Carmen Alvarez alleges that when she switched from an hourly wage to salary as part of a "management training program," she began working in excess of 40 hours a week and was preparing food without extra pay. "I was crushed when Chipotle went back on its promise to pay me and other co-workers the overtime that we worked so hard for," Alvarez said in a statement.
But the legal basis of the lawsuit is more complicated than just "Fuck you, pay me!" In May, President Obama, not yet basking in the glory of post-presidential lobster spaghetti feasts, implemented significant increases in overtime eligibility with a regulation issued by the Labor Department. Under that rule, salaried workers who made as much as $47,476 per year were eligible for time-and-a-half, whereas the cutoff for overtime had previously been $23,660.
Obviously, this decision was great news for salaried restaurant workers—like Chipotle apprentice managers—and not so good news for the huge corporations—like Chipotle—with thousands of employees who would now be owed overtime pay. Needless to say, the federal rule was contested in court, with a US District Court in Texas blocking the rule days before it was supposed to go into effect, since the court had to review the merits of a lawsuit brought by 21 states contesting the Labor Department's decision.
Despite the overtime rule being on hold before the courts, Alvarez's attorneys are arguing that it's "still in effect for private companies" and that workers could try to "enforce the rule for themselves." This means that Chipotle could owe employees like Alvarez thousands of dollars each, but the company is not willing to comment on the matter at this point.
"As a matter of policy, we do not discuss details surrounding pending legal actions, though I'd note that all of our employment practices are compliant with applicable laws," Chipotle Communications Director Chris Arnold told MUNCHIES. "I would also note that a lawsuit is nothing more than allegations, and the filing of a suit is in no way proof of any wrongdoing."