Chipotle workers in NYC claim they were illegally fired

Chipotle workers in NYC claim they were illegally fired


Sixteen current and former Chipotle workers filed complaints with the city’s labor agency within the last week alleging they were fired or had their hours drastically cut in violation of local laws, the Daily News has learned, turning up the heat on the fast-food giant, which is already facing several other legal headaches in New York City.

The workers, nearly all of whom have been involved in efforts to form a local Chipotle union, charge in the claims with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection that their firings or work reductions fly in the face of the 2021 “Just Cause Law.”

“I was unjustly terminated for getting sick,” said Autumn Segarra, a 19-year-old from the Bronx who’s among the 16 axed workers behind the Just Cause claims.

Segarra, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said in an interview last week that their sacking came as a gut punch after they had to call out sick with symptoms potentially indicative of COVID-19.

Segarra, who began experiencing the symptoms while at work, said they told a manager in person about not feeling well and was sent home.

But upon returning to work less than a week later, Segarra said another manager called them into his office, claimed their illness was never properly reported and handed them a termination letter.

“I was in total shock,” Segarra said. “I was crying. This is my first job getting fired from, and especially that it was false information that I was getting fired for … I actually liked my job.”

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Autumn Segarra

The Just Cause Law, enacted by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in January 2021, stipulates that a fast food employer can only boot workers if they fail to satisfactorily perform job duties or engage in misconduct on the job that’s harmful to the employer’s business interests. Fast food chains similarly can’t significantly cut workers’ hours without satisfying the law’s standards.

Paloma Munez, another Chipotle worker who filed a Just Cause claim last week, is still employed at a downtown Manhattan location — but said she had her full-time schedule reduced to about 20 hours per week without much explanation two months ago.

“I felt so betrayed when I found it was breaking the law,” said Munez, 19. “It hurt to find out that people are taking advantage of you.”

Paloma Munez

Jonah Allon, a spokesman for Mayor Adams, said the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection will promptly review the freshly filed claims and urged “any worker who believes they have been wrongfully discharged” to come forward.

If the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection determines Chipotle has violated the Just Cause law, the agency will attempt to broker a settlement that could include reinstatement and backpay for the fired workers, a City Hall official said. If a settlement can’t be reached, the city may bring the company to court, the official added.

Chipotle did not return requests for comment last week.

The blast of Just Cause petitions comes on the heels of Brenda Garcia submitting a claim with the National Labor Relations Board alleging she was fired from her job at a Flushing, Queens Chipotle outpost in retaliation for spearheading an effort to unionize her workplace, as first reported by the news outlet The City.

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It also comes after the city government sued Chipotle over allegations that it violated the Fair Workweek Law, another local labor ordinance.

The lawsuit, filed by de Blasio’s administration in April 2021, seeks relief for hundreds of Chipotle workers in the city who were allegedly cheated out of as much as $150 million due to violations of the law, which prohibits fast food companies from changing employees’ schedules without sufficient notice or extra pay.

Allon confirmed Adams’ administration is still pursuing the de Blasio era legal action against Chipotle.

Garcia, who submitted her National Labor Relations Board claim in April, is also among the workers involved in the Just Cause effort, saying her reduction in hours violated that law in addition to federal rules against retaliation for union activities.

Since her NLRB claim, Garcia told The News that she has gotten her Chipotle job back. But she hasn’t shown up to work for weeks because of concerns for her her own safety following an incident involving a service manager.

Garcia alleged the manager locked her in a walk-in freezer after she went to pick up a 50-pound bag of chicken. “I almost had a panic attack,” she said.

She alleged she was eventually able to force the freezer door open. “And this guy is out there just laughing,” she said of the manager.

Garcia said the incident has left her shaken.

“To be honest, I’m trying to look for another job,” she said. “I’m struggling right now.”

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Like Garcia, Segarra and Munez have been active in trying to unionize Chipotle’s workforce. All three were among a group of Chipotle workers and local lawmakers who got arrested during a pro-union protest in Manhattan on May 26.

A spokesman for 32BJ SEUI, a labor union that has helped organize Chipotle workers, said all but two of the 16 Just Cause petitioners were involved in union activities in some form before getting canned.

“Each of these brave New Yorkers is again proving that this city is a union town and that we don’t let companies violate our hard-won labor protections with impunity here in NYC,” said Candis Tall, a political director for 32BJ. “We stand ready to work with the city to remind Chipotle of this fact.”

The Chipotle workers trying to unionize are pushing for a $20 minimum hourly wage, up from the current $15, and more reliable scheduling protocols, among other demands.

Garcia, who has a young son, said their demands are reasonable at a time when inflation and other economic factors are making living in New York City exceedingly expensive.

“What they’re paying us now is not enough to support our families,” she said.



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