New Jersey woman sues Chipotle over pay

Posted at 9:35 PM, Jun 07, 2017

A New Jersey woman is suing Chipotle for allegedly cheating her out of thousands of dollars of overtime pay she says she deserves.

Carmen Alvarez claims she typically worked more than 50 hours a week, but Chipotle paid her only for 40 hours.

Chipotle "willfully denied Alvarez and other apprentices overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of 40 per week," the lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

Chipotle denies any wrongdoing.

"All of our employment practices are compliant with applicable laws," says Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold. "A lawsuit is nothing more than an allegation, and is proof of absolutely nothing."

Alvarez was an apprentice at Chipotle from 2014 until March of this year, according to the lawsuit. It's the company's trainee program to become a store manager, but Alvarez says she spent the majority of her time "working the assembly line" to make the burritos, tacos and bowls that customers crave.

The lawsuit says because Alvarez mostly did grunt work and earned a modest wage, she should be eligible for overtime pay under New Jersey and federal law. Instead, Chipotle classified her -- and other apprentices -- as managers who earn an annual salary and are not entitled to extra money for working overtime.

Alvarez's case comes off the heels of a huge class-action lawsuit filed last summer in which more than 10,000 Chipotle workers from around the country allege the popular restaurant chain forced them to work extra hours without getting paid.

The issue in the Alvarez case comes down to whether Chipotle apprentices should be considered managers or hourly line workers. Managers don't get overtime pay.

Under federal law, there are two key criteria to figure out if a position should be considered management: 1) How much money does the person make? 2) What are their duties?

For many years, the U.S. Labor Department said companies could classify workers who make at least $23,600 a year and had an executive or professional role as managers.

But on Dec. 1, new overtime rules went into effect that said only employees paid at least $47,476 a year and doing management-type duties could be considered salaried executives. The new overtime rule is currently being challenged in court. The Trump administration hasn't taken a stance on it yet.