TRENTON – Chipotle Mexican Grill will pay $7.75 million to resolve widespread violations of New Jersey’s child labor laws, the state announced Tuesday.

A 2020 audit by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development found the restaurant chain was persistently disregarding state laws regarding meal breaks and caps on the number of hours minors can work – allegedly more than 30,000 times in four years.

As part of the settlement finalized this week, which the state called groundbreaking, Chipotle agreed to a compliance plan for its 85 New Jersey locations aimed at putting an end to the practices.

Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said the settlement is a record for the state.

“After-school and summer employment can be of tremendous value to both the young worker and the employer, but these jobs cannot come at the expense of treating employees fairly,” Asaro-Angelo said.

“There is no excuse for any business, particularly a major, profitable corporation with prior violations, to continually deny young employees their work rights,” he said.

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Chipotle locations cited in NJ

Four Chipotle locations – in Fort Lee, Bloomfield, Mays Landing and Parsippany – had been cited for child labor law violations in between 2016 and 2018. The audit that led to the current penalties covered the years 2017 to 2020.

“New Jersey is committed to protecting all workers – especially young workers and others who are vulnerable and may not know their rights in the workplace,” said acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin.  “This historic settlement … should serve as a message to every employer that if you exploit your workers, you will be held accountable.”

As part of the settlement, Chipotle agreed to periodic self-audits, designating a child labor compliance official and mandatory formal training for all current and future managers, supervisors and staff to raise awareness of New Jersey’s child labor protections and create a lawful work environment.

Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer for Chipotle Mexican Grill, said as part of the settlement, the company has implemented an enhanced labor scheduling program, “creating a more efficient, consistent and compliant environment.”

“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,” Schalow said.

All penalties received go to the state’s Child Labor Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which is used to enforce laws protecting children in the workplace and educate employers, employer organizations, employees, unions, teachers, counselors and others about the laws covering work by minors.

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Of the restitution, $7.7 million was for penalties, and $85,000 was for attorney fees.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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