Chipotle has managed to craft one of the most progressive reputations in the fast-food and fast-casual restaurant game. Now comes some news that might tarnish that golden reputation a bit.
Class action lawsuits filed by current and former Chipotle workers in Colorado and Minnesota accuse the burrito chain of making employees work extra hours without pay, reports CNN. Employees allege that the restaurant's time-keeping system would automatically punch them out at 12:30 a.m., ignoring that they were still working to clean up the restaurant past that time.
Workers claim that if they complained about the unpaid hours of work, Chipotle would cut their hours or threaten to fire them.
The plaintiff is arguing that the wage theft was part of an unofficial policy at the burrito chain. Law firm Fitapelli & Schaffer, which is representing Chipotle workers, is seeking out other "victims of unpaid overtime."
In its defense, Chipotle has denied all allegations of breaking labor laws.
Chipotle has mostly managed to avoid criticism of employee treatment that has hit fast-food franchises such as McDonald's and KFC. The company boasts about its "people culture" that sets it apart from fast-food chains and allows workers to rise through the ranks.
Unlike most fast-food chains, the company can't blame individual franchisees for breaking labor laws and underpaying workers. Chipotle has refused to franchise, allegedly in part to promote its people culture.
This lawsuit could force the public to question if Chipotle is truly worker-friendly or if the chain is just a PR master that knows what customers want to hear.
Related: Why Chipotle Won't Franchise