[US] Is Chipotle’s $1.3million Child Labour Violation Fine Sufficient?

The latest in a string of public relations crises over the years for fast-food chain Chipotle may be the most serious as the employer faces a $1.3million fine for child labour violations, Refinery 29 reports.

Chipotle has survived bad PR before, including the infamous 2015 E. coli outbreak, but new reports show that Chipotle agreed to pay the state of Massachusetts a fine of $1.3million for a shocking 13,253 child labour violations. 

The state’s attorney general’s office found that from 2015-2019 over 50 of its restaurant locations were employing teenagers below the age of 18. It is legal to employ minors with work permits but the state found that teens were working too late and for too many hours without the correct permits. With only 62 Chipotle locations in all of Massachusetts, finding 50 of them in violation of child labour laws is a significant problem. 

$1.3million might sound like a considerable fine for the chain but Refinery 29 questions whether it actually is a fair price to pay. They break down the maths, with dramatic results. The total summation divided by the true number of broken laws works out to approximately $106 per violation, which is highlighted as a low price to pay for abusing child labour restrictions.

Chipotle made around $5.5billion in 2019 alone according to Forbes. With one million equal to about 0.1% of a billion and Chipotle’s multi-billion-dollar bank balance, Refinery 29 concludes that violating labour laws in such a horrific way and taking advantage of young people has barely cost them anything. (Forbes link via original reporting)

The 3-year investigation into the practices of Chipotle locations across the state began after the state received a complaint from a parent saying their child worked after midnight at the Chipotle location employing them. Upon closer examination, it became clear that the company was letting dozens of employees under 18 work late hours and days in excess of nine hours, a violation of the law which sets a 48-hour weekly limit. 

In a statement Attorney General Maura Healey said, "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 labour laws and put young people at risk,” 

In addition to paying over a million dollars to the state for their violations, Chipotle will also be giving $500,000 to youth programs that educate young workers about their rights and labour laws. It is yet to be proven that the consequences for such a dramatic erasure of rights - the largest child labour investigation in the history of Massachusetts’ attorney general's office - had the correct financial and practical price tag. (Link via original reporting)