Chipotle agreed to pay a $332,400 fine and submit a new work plan to The Office of the Attorney General for Washington, D.C. after the agency uncovered more than 800 alleged child labor violations.
The District’s laws prevent minors from working past 10 p.m., more than eight hours in one day, more than six straight days in a workweek, or more than 48 hours in a workweek. The Office of the Attorney General found hundreds of cases since April 1, 2020, where Chipotle allegedly didn’t abide by these legal caps. The fast casual has 20 restaurants in Washington, D.C.
“We applaud young people who take the initiative to work in addition to going to school,” The Office of the Attorney General for Washington, D.C. said in a statement. “But the law limits the hours they can work to ensure they are healthy, well-rested, and able to fulfill their responsibilities as students and to their families. Our investigation examined whether Chipotle violated laws intended to protect our children, and today’s outcome continues the Office of the Attorney General’s proven track record of enforcing DC’s labor protections to the fullest extent of the law. We will put this settlement to good use by helping connect District youth with apprenticeships and workforce training opportunities, building on our efforts to ensure that all young people in the District have the chance to thrive and succeed.”
Although Chipotle settled, the company denied Washington, D.C.’s accusations and didn’t admit to any liability or wrong doing. The brand noted that it gives all workers “industry-leading” benefits such as debt-free degrees, tuition reimbursement, access to mental health care, financial planning tools, and quarterly bonuses. It also provides a career progression that puts certain employees on the path to $100,000 in total compensation.
“We are committed to ensuring that our restaurants are in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations and we believe that in hiring workers beginning at age 16, we can provide younger employees with valuable experiences and an opportunity for advancement,” Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, said in a statement. “We have reached a settlement with the Washington, D.C. Office of the Attorney General for the events dating back to 2020, and have implemented an enhanced labor scheduling program in our restaurants, creating a more efficient, consistent and compliant environment.”
Chipotle cooperated with the investigation and worked with the office to develop a plan to comply with Washington D.C.’s child labor laws. The brand is required to deploy new formal policies and procedures to ensure future compliance, including: Provide all apprentices and general managers with sufficient and documented training within six months of their hire or promotion and provide all employed minors with a copy of the Washington, D.C.-specific child labor policy and ensure they understand both the laws and Chipotle’s policy.
Washington, D.C. began its investigation in May 2022 after reviewing reports from other areas where Chipotle was alleged to have violated other states’ child labor laws. In January 2020, Chipotle was fined $1.37 million in Massachusetts due to more than 13,000 child labor violations dating back to 2016. In September 2022, it was ordered to pay $7.75 million for roughly 30,600 violations from 2017-2020.
The news comes a few days after Sonic franchisees in South Carolina were fined $61,500 for child labor violations. Ninety-one children ages 14 and 15 allegedly worked illegally at 13 locations in South Carolina. In May, three McDonald’s franchisees were fined more than $212,000 for child labor violations, including one restaurant employing two 10-year-olds who were found working as late as 2 a.m.