Chipotle has seen its fair share of public relations crises over the years, including the infamous e. coli breakout in 2015. But, this latest crisis might really take the cake (uhh, taco). New reports show that Chipotle agreed to pay the state of Massachusetts a fine of $1.3 million for 13,253 child labor violations.
The state’s attorney general’s office found that between 2015 and 2019, more than 50 locations of the popular chain restaurant were employing teenagers under 18 years old. This much is legal, given that the minors have work permits. But the state found that teens were working too late and too many hours without the right work permits. Considering that there are only 62 Chipotle location’s in all of Massachusetts, 50 of them being in violation of child labor laws is no small potatoes problem.
Although $1.3 million may seem like a large sum, for the mega-rich fast casual chain, is that actually a fair price? That math is quite jarring when you break it down. The total summation divided by the actual number of broken laws comes out to about $106 per violation, and that seems like a low price to pay for abusing child labor restrictions. Plus, Chipotle made approximately $5.5 billion in 2019 alone according to Forbes. One million is only about 0.1% of a billion, and Chipotle certainly has many billions in the bank. That means violating labor laws in such a horrific way and taking advantage of young people barely cost them anything.
The three-year investigation into the practices of Chipotle locations across the state began when the state received a complaint from a parent saying their child worked past midnight at the Chipotle they were employed at. Upon looking into it more carefully, the company was letting dozens of employees under 18 work late hours and more than nine hour days, which is against the law, considering that there’s a 48-hour weekly limit.
"Chipotle is a major national restaurant chain that employs thousands of young people across the country and it has a duty to ensure minors are safe working in its restaurants. We hope these citations send a message to other fast food chains and restaurants that they cannot violate our child labor laws and put young people at risk,” Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.
On top of shelling out over a million dollars to the state for their violations, the company will also be paying $500,000 for youth programs that educate young workers about their rights and labor laws. However, given that this was the largest child labor investigation in the history of Massachusetts’ attorney general's office, it remains to be seen if the consequences for such an egregious erasure of rights have actually come with the proper price tag and course of action.