Chipotle Mexican Grill has agreed to pay $7.75 million to New Jersey over “widespread and persistent” child labor law violations, state officials said Tuesday.

As a part agreementChipotle must create a long-term strategy to ensure compliance with labor laws in the future and incorporate the plan into all 85 of its New Jersey stores. This includes self-audits and mandatory training for employees and managers.

It fine based on the results of a 2020 audit by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In it, the agency found 30,660 alleged violations affecting minors at franchise locations across the state. The national fast-food chain allegedly failed to adhere to limits on the number of hours the underage workers worked and did not provide them with sufficient and timely meal breaks during their shifts.

Chipotle also allegedly failed to keep records of its workers under the age of 18, including copies of employment certification forms required by state law, according to the settlement.

“This record settlement represents a public-private partnership aimed at protecting minors from abuse in the labor force,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “After school and summer work can be of great value to both the young worker and the employer, but these jobs cannot come at the expense of fair treatment for employers.”

By location, Chipotle has disputed the allegations and he did not accept any of the charges against him. Chipotle’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Laurie Shallo said that the company is committed to ensuring full compliance by implementing a work planning program to make the environment more efficient.

All fines collected from the company will be sent to the state’s Child Labor Rights Trust, which helps enforce laws designed to protect child workers from exploitation in the workplace.

“It makes good business sense to treat all workers, especially minors, fairly and in accordance with the law,” Asaro-Angelo said. “There is no excuse for any business, especially a large, profitable corporation with a history of wrongdoing, to continue to deny young employees their employment rights.”

The audit was largely prompted by violations of child labor laws reported in New Jersey and other states. Four Chipotle locations in New Jersey — Fort Lee in Bergen County, Bloomfield in Essex County, Mays Landing in Atlantic County and Parsippany in Morris County — were previously cited for violations between 2016 and 2018.

In Massachusetts, the company agreed to pay $1.4 million in fines for child labor and wage violations in 2020 at more than 50 locations in the state.

“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 Attorney General Matthew Platkin. “This historic settlement is just one result of our investment in the Murphy administration to proactively enforce our worker protection laws and should send a message to every employer that if you exploit your workers, you will be held accountable.”

For more information about New Jersey’s child labor laws: Department of Labor and Workforce Development has a web page filled with resources about workers’ rights.

By philcp

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