Chipotle Mexican Grill will pay New Jersey $7.7 million to settle “alleged widespread and persistent violations” of the state’s child labor laws, the state said Tuesday.
New Jersey, calling the settlement “groundbreaking,” said Chipotle agreed to what the state calls a “far-reaching compliance plan” to make sure the franchise doesn’t break state laws in the future, the Labor Department and the Attorney General’s office said.
The settlement comes after a 2020 Labor Department audit that found approximately 30,660 alleged violations related to minors working at Chipotle locations across New Jersey, the state said. The alleged violations included minors working too many hours and not getting “timely and sufficient” meal breaks.
“This record settlement represents a significant public-private partnership aimed at protecting minors from workplace abuses,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “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.”
Chipotle, which has 85 locations in New Jersey, said it is committed to ensuring its restaurants are in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations, said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer.
“We have reached a settlement with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General for the events dating back to 2017, and have implemented an enhanced labor scheduling program in our restaurants, creating a more efficient, consistent and compliant environment,” Schalow said. “We believe that in hiring workers beginning at age 16, we can provide younger employees with valuable experiences and an opportunity for advancement.”
New Jersey’s child labor laws are very specific about the number of hours minors are allowed to work and when, based on the child’s age and whether it’s a school day or during the summer.
The settlement says Chipotle will ensure compliance with child labor laws, including self-audits, designating a child labor compliance official and mandatory training for staff, the state said.
“It makes good business sense to treat all workers, particularly minors, fairly and in accordance with the law,” Asaro-Angelo said. “There is no excuse for any business, particularly a major, profitable corporation with prior violations, to continually deny young employees their work rights.”
Chipotle was audited for the years 2017 through 2020, brought on by “Chipotle’s history of child labor law violations in New Jersey and other states,” the state said.
It said four Chipotle locations – Fort Lee, Bloomfield, Mays Landing and Parsippany – had been cited for Child Labor Law violations in 2016 through 2018.
Also, Chipotle in 2020 agreed to pay $1.4 million to Massachusetts for child labor and wage violations at more than 50 locations in that state.
“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,” said Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin.
The penalties will go to the Labor Department’s Child Labor Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which the state said is used to enforce laws protecting children in the workplace. It also is used to educate employers and others about work involving minors.
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Karin Price Mueller may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @KPMueller.