Workers Claim They Were Forced to Work Off-the-Clock, Now They’re Suing
Thousands of Chipotle employees say they were cheated out of their pay
Wage theft – when employers intentionally deny employees’ wages or benefits – can be hard to spot sometimes. A few inexplicable paycheck deductions may escape employees’ notice. Shorting people overtime pay may not be all that hard because pesky wage and hour laws can be confusing.
However, sometimes wage theft is pretty obvious. One example: Making employees work for free.
One group of current and former Chipotle employees say that’s what they were asked to do many times. Now, nearly 10,000 of them are suing the company for wage theft.
Let’s take a closer look at this situation and then discuss what employees should know about wage theft.
Clocked Out But Still Working
Working off-the-clock was a way of life for employees at Chipotle. At least that’s the claim 9,961 current and former employees of the restaurant are alleging in a lawsuit against the company.
The employees assert that the company puts store managers under continuous pressure to contain labor costs. That, in turn, forces managers and supervisors to adjust labor costs by having people clock out and then continue to work, or by modifying time records after the fact.
Chipotle’s timekeeping system is also a problem, according to the workers. They say that it automatically clocks people out by 12:30 AM, even though they frequently had to work past that time to clean and prep for the next day.
The restaurant argues that the trouble lies with a few rogue managers, but the lawsuit says otherwise. It points out that the huge number of employees affected across the country points to a pattern and practice of wage theft.
Lost Pay Adds Up Quickly
Many of the employees involved in the lawsuit claim that they frequently worked five or more unpaid hours per week.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Leah Turner, charges that she worked hundreds or even thousands of uncompensated hours over several years.
She claims that she didn’t push back because she wanted to advance in the company and didn’t want to make waves. “I was threatened that if I didn’t keep my [labor] numbers down, I wasn’t going to have that position,” Turner told CNN.
What Employees Need to Know About Wage Theft
If you’re a non-exempt employee (that is, generally someone who is paid hourly and who is eligible for overtime), your employer may not require you to work off-the-clock. That’s true if you’re a full-time or a part-time worker.
Your employer cannot make you waive this right, nor can it offer another benefit, such as comp time, in place of paying you your regular hourly wage for the first 40 hours of work each week. Similarly, if you work for a private employer you cannot be made to wave your right to overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a week, nor can you be forced to accept another benefit in place of overtime pay.
Public employers may be able to substitute comp time for overtime, pursuant to a previously agreed-upon policy.
Fighting for your rights against your employer can be daunting. That’s why it’s especially important to make sure you’re working with a law firm that has experience facing off against companies that are shortchanging their workers.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.