Chipotle is now crying for mercy after forcing its current and former employees to enter into arbitrations to argue their wage claims against the company. The fast-food goliath had instituted a company-wide tactic of requiring its employees into arbitration agreements in 2014 forcing almost 3,000 plaintiffs into individualized reviews of their claims by arbitrators as opposed to class action lawsuits in court. When you sign an arbitration agreement, you promise to pursue any legal claims against your employer through arbitration as opposed to a lawsuit. Arbitrations, more often than not, benefit and favor the company as opposed to the employee. Forgoing a jury of your peers is often viewed as a disadvantage for the plaintiff since juries tend to be more sympathetic towards employees.
In light of the thousands of potential arbitrations they could face, Chipotle pleaded with the judge presiding over the federal case to suspend the filings, claiming it could cause “irreparable harm” to the company. Additionally, Chipotle requested the judge stop any of the attorneys involved in the prior wage lawsuits against them from representing these plaintiffs in arbitration. The judge denied both requests citing Chipotle’s attempts at delaying the claims of the arbitration plaintiffs as “unseemly”. Besides filing countless appeals congesting the federal courts to delay the arbitration proceedings, Chipotle has not paid any of arbitration filing fees they are required to cover for each arbitration to go forward.
All of these cases stem from allegations that Chipotle had not been paying its employees correctly and owed them back pay. Employees went unpaid through established company methods that would clock them out before their shifts ended, or having time clocks reset automatically clocking out employees still on the job. Back pay owed ranged from $100 to several thousand dollars per affected employee.
Chipotle has not been playing fair and all of a sudden wants leniency on a mess they themselves created. If you or anyone you know has concerns over their pay structure at work, regardless of having signed an arbitration agreement, please call one of the attorneys at Fitapelli & Schaffer, LLP for a free phone consultation. Fitapelli & Schaffer can be reached at (212) 300-0375 or by visiting their firm website.