Court ruling affects Chipotle wage-and-hour disputes

Many workers in Tennessee and across the country already feel they have little leverage when it comes to violations of their employee rights. For years, such workers have found satisfaction in pursuing class action lawsuits against employees in areas such as systematic discrimination and wage-and-hour disputes. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision may remove this options for certain workers, and some allegedly ill-used employees are already feeling the repercussions.

A class action lawsuit filed against Chipotle Mexican Grille, Inc., includes about 10,000 workers demanding back pay for hours the company forced them to work off the clock. Employees accuse management of making them clock out at the end of their shifts but insisting they remain to complete any unfinished work. Others were made to do prep work before clocking in, both of which are violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit, filed in 2014, included 3,000 workers who had apparently signed agreements to waive their right to join class action lawsuits as a condition of employment with the company.

Since the Supreme Court recently ruled that employers have the right to include these forced arbitration conditions in their hiring practices, those 3,000 may not be allowed to continue in the class action and may have to seek their lost wages individually through costly arbitration. One dissenting justice noted that the majority ruling removes one instrument employees could use to level the playing field with their employers. It is possible that these forced arbitration conditions may include sexual harassment claims as well.

When facing wage-and-hour disputes, employees have the right to fair representation, whether through litigation or arbitration. Having a legal advocate may improve the chances that the employee will receive a fair opportunity for reclaiming the wages he or she rightfully earned. A Tennessee attorney with experience in wage theft can provide solid advice.

Source: Fortune, "Chipotle Workers Could be Shut Out of Wage Suit By New Ruling", David Z. Morris, May 27, 2018

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