Cohen Milstein represents a class of managerial apprentices at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in New Jersey who were denied the overtime pay to which they were entitled under federal and state law, including the newly enacted 2016 Overtime Rule, which was slated to take effect in December 2016, would have doubled the salary threshold for executive, administrative and professional workers to be exempt from overtime pay requirements. The lawsuit, filed against Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. and Chipotle Services, LLC (“Chipotle”) in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleges that Chipotle violated the law by misclassifying its Apprentices as exempt from overtime and failing to pay them premium overtime wages on that basis.
On July 2, 2019, the Fifth Circuit reversed the ruling of U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas March 19, 2018 that said Cohen Milstein and co-counsel were in contempt of court for violating a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) when they brought this wage-and-hour suit in New Jersey federal court. The preliminary injunction issued by Judge Mazzant in November 2016 had prevented the DOL from enforcing the 2016 Overtime Rule that made millions of workers eligible for overtime compensation.
As a result of the Fifth’s Circuit’s ruling, Cohen Milstein and co-counsel are able to continue to represent a class of managerial apprentices at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in New Jersey who were denied the overtime pay to which they were entitled under federal and state law. The lawsuit, filed on June 7, 2017, against Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. and Chipotle Services, LLC (“Chipotle”) in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleges that Chipotle violated the law by misclassifying its Apprentices as exempt from overtime and failing to pay them premium overtime wages on that basis.
On June 18, 2020, the Honorable James B. Clark III of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted Plaintiffs motion to file an amended complaint to assert nationwide collective action allegations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
On February 26, 2021, Chipotle agreed to $15 million settlement to resolve the class claims and end the lawsuit. This settlement is pending court approval.
Apprentices at Chipotle generally do the same work as crew members who receive overtime pay, such as preparing and serving food and helping customers, but they are expected to work more than 50 hours per week without overtime pay. In November 2016, Chipotle acknowledged that Apprentices were entitled to overtime wages and paid Apprentices overtime for approximately one month. Then, following an injunction against the U.S. Department of Labor in a separate case, Chipotle reversed its position and improperly declined to make further overtime payments. This lawsuit seeks to establish that Apprentices are entitled to the overtime pay that they were denied by Chipotle.
Chipotle claims that it does not have to pay Apprentices overtime because they fall under an exemption to the overtime laws for “executive” employees. However, in December 2016, the Department of Labor revised the new rule limiting the exemption claimed by Chipotle to only those individuals who earned $913 per week ($47,476 annually). Named Plaintiff Carmen Alvarez, a Chipotle apprentice from 2013 through 2017, earned approximately $43,000 annually, which fell below the new threshold. However, she has not received the full overtime payments to which she is entitled since the Rule went into effect on December 1, 2016. The lawsuit alleges that other Apprentices in New Jersey received a similar salary and were therefore also improperly denied overtime pay.
“Chipotle is denying overtime pay to thousands of workers that live paycheck to paycheck and rely on their weekly income to make ends meet,” said Joseph M. Sellers, Partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC, which represents the lead plaintiff in the suit. “More broadly, Chipotle is not the only company to avoid paying overtime to its employees by illegally hiding behind a ruling that does not apply to them. This case could benefit millions of hard-working Americans who are being denied money that they’ve earned.”
“Like so many of my coworkers, I was hopeful that the overtime that Chipotle promised me would be a boost for my family. 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,” said Carmen Alvarez, the 55 year-old mother and grandmother who brought the lawsuit on behalf of her Chipotle co-workers. “This case isn’t just about Chipotle, though. Millions of Americans are working long hours and not getting paid the money to which they are entitled. It’s time for that to stop.”
Cohen Milstein has partnered with Outten & Golden LLP and Green Savits, LLC to bring this lawsuit.
The case name is: Alvarez et al. v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. et al., Case No. 2:17-cv-04095, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.