A U.S. Congresswoman is calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate Chipotle after a lawsuit filed by nearly 10,000 current and former workers who accused the fast food chain of wage theft.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), in a letter to David Weil, director of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division Department of Labor, demanded that the agency investigate the allegations against Chipotle.
“These accusations are in direct contradiction to federal wage and hour law, as defined in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, depriving workers of the wages and earnings to which they are legally entitled,” DeLauro wrote, reported CNN.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in December, centers around the alleged practice of not paying employees for work they did “off the clock.”
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“Chipotle routinely requires hourly-paid restaurant employees to punch out, and then continue working until they are given permission to leave,” according to a lawsuit.
Chris Arnold, a spokesperson for Chipotle, told Reuters that DeLauro’s her call for an investigation was “misdirected.”
“We have maintained from the outset that this case is without merit and will vigorously defend our employment practices,” Arnold said.
DeLauro noted in the letter that wage theft is a significant problem for people who work for low incomes.
“Wage and hour violations pose a serious and growing problem for working Americans across industries and wage theft disproportionately affects low-wage, hourly workers,” DeLauro wrote, reported The Hill.
The U.S. Department of Labor released a study in 2014 showing that many of those affected by wage theft work in service-based positions in the restaurant and hotel industries and were more likely to be women, people of color, and undocumented people.
DeLauro joined Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to introduce HR 4763, the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act.
People who work can demand back pay for wage theft, but they can only seek back pay for minimum wage regardless if their hourly pay is higher. The proposal would permit people who work to seek full compensation, as well as allow workers to seek triple their wages for damages plus interest assessed on the original owed wages.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where it awaits further consideration.
Chipotle is one of several companies that have been accused of wage theft in recent years. Amazon, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Papa John’s, and Walmart have all been accused in lawsuits of stealing wages from people who work.