Chipotle Mexican Grill is required to pay nearly $8 million in labor law violations. This is the second case regarding child labor laws violations and workplace settlement for the fast food giant.

Why is Chipotle required to pay the State of New Jersey $7.75 million?

The fast food chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, has been accused of child labor law violations and has agreed to pay the State of New Jersey $7.75 million as a settlement, said an official statement released by the State.

The 15th September settlement follows a 2020 audit carried out by the State of New Jersey that found more than 30,000 violations, including instances of minors working beyond the sanctioned 40-hour work week without an appropriate number of intervals, including meal-time breaks.

"After-school and summer employment can be of tremendous value to both the young worker and the employer, but these jobs cannot come at the expense of treating employees fairly," New Jersey labor department commissioner, Robert Asaro-Angelo, said in a statement.

What are the New Jersey laws regarding child labor?

Under the New Jersey law, 14- and 15-year-olds can work up to 40 hours a week during school holidays or on days when school is out of session. It is mandatory for all employers of minors to ensure that they are given a 30-minute meal break after five hours of work. During school months, they are allowed up to 18 hours a week. 1617-year-olds can work up to 40 hours a week with 30-minute meal breaks throughout the year.

What is the impact of this lawsuit?

The terms of the settlement require Chipotle to train managers on the state's child labor laws. "We believe that in hiring workers beginning at age 16, we can provide younger employees with valuable experience and an opportunity for advancement," said Laurie Schalow, a spokesperson for Chipotle, in a statement.

What does the NJ State intend to do with the large sum of money?

The settlement money, the New Jersey state has declared, will go to a fund that the department maintains to enforce child labor laws. The fund is directed toward educating employers, employees, unions, teachers, and counselors on child labor.

"New Jersey is committed to protecting all workers, especially young workers and others who are vulnerable and may not know their rights in the workplace," acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said in a statement.

Why has Chipotle not admitted to any of the accusations?

The settlement between Chipotle and the New Jersey State, however, does not constitute an admission by the fast food company of any wrongful or unlawful acts.

Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle, said in a statement that the company implemented an enhanced labor scheduling program in its restaurants, creating a more efficient, consistent and compliant environment.

Has Chipotle been accused of violating child labour laws in the past?

This is not the first time that Chipotle has been charged with labor law violations. In 2020, the fast food chain paid the state of Massachusetts $1.3 million for similar offenses. In March this year, Chipotle found itself battling a sexual harassment case against the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in Washington. In New York City, the fast food giant faces a comprehensive campaign by the Service Employees International Union. Chipotle has agreed to a $20 million settlement in a lawsuit over alleged violations of the city's Fair Workweek law in August. This settlement had the company concede compensation for violations to 13,000 workers.

Chipotle’s history of dissatisfied employees

As illustrated above, Chipotle has faced several lawsuits over working conditions, and irate and dissatisfied employees continue to raise concerns about malpractice. Earlier this year, two exasperated employees filed for union elections with the National Labor Relations Board at two Chipotle locations.

Workers have continuously cited wages and under-scheduling as concerns, which led them to both file for union elections and spearhead campaigns against the fast food company to ensure that it no longer gets to Break Laws. They revealed that workers at some Chipotle locations make as little as $13 per hour and are not afforded basic necessities.

As a result, workers at a Chipotle Chipotle outlet in Lansing, Michigan, United States, voted to unionize, thereby establishing the first union at the fast food chain nationwide. Reports state that voting took place in the restaurant parking lot and the score was 11-3 with two contested ballots.

This election is a milestone for the GenZ and millennial workers in the United States at such high-profile companies (several such first-time union victories have also been noticed for Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, and Trader Joe's). It works as a turning point for the low-wage fast food industry, where unions have historically found it challenging to find a voice due to the sheer number of locations, the franchising model, and the company's high turnover.

"I am so excited we won. Being one of the first fast food restaurants to do this definitely proves a point to the entire country that we can do this," said Samantha Smith, an 18-year-old member who participated in the union election held earlier this year. "This is a gigantic first step toward doing that and improving the lives of future generations," added Smith, who has worked at Chipotle in Lansing for two years and makes $13.33 an hour, as reported by the Washington Post.