Chipotle Assistant Managers Allege They Were Misclassified As Exempt Employees, Court Rules They Can Proceed With Overtime Claims

Laner Muchin, Ltd.
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A New York federal court recently granted conditional certification of a nationwide class of Assistant Managers at Chipotle restaurants based on the allegations that Chipotle misclassified Assistant Managers as exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The lawsuit, brought by a former Assistant Manager, alleges that he and other Assistant Managers at the time were treated as management and not paid overtime while participating in an apprentice program that trained Assistant Managers.  The former Assistant Manager alleges he and other Assistant Managers did not perform the duties of an Assistant Manager during the apprentice program, such as hiring, firing, scheduling and disciplining employees.  Instead, he and other Assistant Managers allegedly spent most of their time in the apprentice program performing the same work as hourly employees, such as working the assembly line, filling customer orders, grilling, operating the cash register and preparing food items.  Because the lawsuit alleges that Chipotle misclassified all Assistant Managers, the Court ruled that this lawsuit brought by the former Assistant Manager can now proceed as a class action of all current and former Assistant Managers nationwide (except in California), which will likely include thousands of people.  The fact that the case can proceed as a class action is not a decision on the merits of the case, and the Assistant Managers will still have to prove their claims.  Nevertheless, defending class action claims are costly and time consuming, so this is another cautionary tale for employers to make sure that all employees are properly classified as exempt.  This is particularly important for employers with employees in similar management training programs, and whose primary duties do not yet involve exercising management authority.

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