Lawsuit Claims Chipotle Owes Overtime Pay to Thousands

By Marte, Jonnelle | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), June 8, 2017 | Go to article overview

Lawsuit Claims Chipotle Owes Overtime Pay to Thousands


Marte, Jonnelle, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


A lawsuit filed against Chipotle on Wednesday claims that a federal rule expanding overtime pay to millions of workers is in effect, despite an injunction late last year that banned the Labor Department from enforcing the regulation. The proposed class action lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey, alleges that Chipotle should be paying time and a half to employees who work more than 40 hours a week and earn less than $47,476 a year as would be required by the rule. Attorneys representing Chipotle employees in New Jersey argue that the rule still took effect as scheduled on Dec. 1 because the court that ordered the injunction has not issued a final decision or repealed the regulation. The suit also claims that the injunction applied narrowly to the Labor Department and does not block other parties, such as workers, from enforcing the rule in court.

Theres been no finding that the rule is unlawful, said Joseph Sellers, a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, the law firm representing the lead plaintiff. We think the rule went into effect and that companies should be paying people overtime.

At issue is a Labor Department rule finalized under the Obama administration that would more than double the income threshold from $23,660 a year to $47,476 a year under which workers must be eligible for overtime pay. Depending on the outcome of the case, the suit could potentially lead to significant scheduling changes and back pay for Chipotle employees. It could also have implications for millions of other workers who would become eligible for overtime pay under the rule.

Chipotle and the Labor Department did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

The Chipotle suit is questioning the scope of an injunction filed by a federal judge in November that barred the Labor Department from implementing and enforcing the rule roughly a week before it was scheduled to take effect. The order was meant to give the court more time to reach a final decision on the regulation, which was challenged by 21 states and a coalition of business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce. The result was a limbo where the rule was put on hold but not permanently eliminated, according to legal experts not associated with the case.

However, the lawsuit claims that while the injunction blocked the Labor Department from enforcing the rule, it did not technically prevent the rule from going into effect. The lawyers argue that the Labor Department does not have to take any further steps to implement the rule because it was already finalized and officially published by the time the injunction was filed.

Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel for the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, also believes the injunction was not enough to keep the rule from going into effect since it had already been finalized. …

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