Chipotle Mexican Grill agreed to pay $240,000 to former employees as part of a settlement stemming from a complaint that the company violated federal law by closing a restaurant where the workers wanted to unionize.
Chipotle announced it was permanently closing its Augusta, Maine, site last year after workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election. The NLRB later said the closure was illegal.
The Maine site was the first in the chain to file a union petition. The settlement, released Monday by union officials, stipulates that two dozen employees will receive payments from Chipotle and will be placed on a preferential hiring list for other Maine locations.
The company must also post a notice in dozens of stores in New England stating that it will not close stores or discriminate against employees because of union support, the settlement states.
“It sends a message to businesses that closing a store and locking in workers hasn’t worked for Chipotle and it won’t work for them either,” said Brandi McNease, former Augusta store employee and lead organizer. of the union. drive, in a statement provided by the Maine AFL-CIO.
Chipotle said in a statement that it settled the lawsuit because fighting it would have been cumbersome and costly. The company respects “the rights of our employees to organize under national labor relations law” and is committed to “providing a fair and equitable work environment that provides opportunity for all,” said Laurie Schalow, the company’s director of general affairs, in a statement. statement.
“We settled this case not because we did anything wrong, but because the time, energy and cost of a trial would have far exceeded the settlement agreement,” Schalow said.
The Augusta site closed last summer. Workers described the closure as retaliation for the union campaign, but company representatives said the closure was unrelated to unionization.
The payments workers receive vary based on their average number of hours worked, their rate of pay and their longevity before the store closed, union officials said.