Employees sue restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill over overtime compensation

Restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has been sued by employees for allegedly not paying overtime compensation, which they claimed they were entitled to, under a recent labor department rule in a separate court battle.

According to the lawsuit, filed yesterday in a federal court in New Jersey, the Obama-era labor department rule, which greatly expanded overtime pay to salaried workers, still applied, even though a federal judge in November issued a preliminary injunction blocking the labor department from enforcing it.

The suit sought class-action status for ''apprentices,'' or managers-in-training, who were not eligible for overtime under the old salary cap, but were eligible under the new one, said Joseph Sellers, a lawyer from Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll who is among the representatives for the suit.

After the Obama administration finalised the change of rule last year, Sellers said, Chipotle paid some of the eligible employees a few weeks for overtime they were newly qualified to receive, but the payment stopped when the federal injunction against the rule was issued in late November, Huffington Post reported.

''The [Fair Labor Standards Act] has two ways of enforcing overtime rule. One is from [the] Department of Labor, and the other is individual parties,'' Sellers explained. ''The injunction stops the Department of Labor, but says nothing about private enforcement.''

"For conscientious employers, a suit like this reminds them that the rule is in effect and that they should be paying overtime," Sellers said, USA Today reported. "I don't fully understand the mindset that has given rise to this broad belief that companies are not bound by this."

According to commentators, at the core of the suit was the rule that made more employees eligible for overtime pay and required employers to pay overtime to any worker who earned up to $47,476. The companies had earlier had to pay overtime to workers making $23,660 or less.