Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harris v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 12, 2017

Marcus Harris, Julius Caldwell, Demarkus Hobbs, and Dana Evenson, on behalf of themselves and all others, similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Defendant.

          Adam S. Levy, Law Office of Adam S. Levy LLC, Andrew C. Quisenberry and Jere Kyle Bachus, Bachus & Schanker, LLC, Kent M. Williams, Williams Law Firm, Kevin E. Giebel, Giebel and Associates, LLC, and Michael E. Jacobs and Thomas M. Hnasko, Hinkle Shanor LLP for Plaintiffs.

          Adam M. Royval, Allison J. Dodd, John K. Shunk, Louis M. Grossman, Scott L. Evans, and Spencer Kontnik, Messner Reeves LLP, Jeffrey Sullivan Gleason, Robins Kaplan LLP, and Jennifer M. Robbins, for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Decertify the Conditionally Certified Collective [Doc. No. 244] filed by Defendant Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (“Chipotle”). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         The procedural background of this case is well documented in the Court's September 9, 2014 Memorandum Opinion and Order (the “Conditional Certification Order”) [Doc. No. 101] and is incorporated herein by reference. Briefly stated, Plaintiffs Marcus Harris, Julius Caldwell, DeMarkus Hobbs, and Dana Evenson (collectively, “Named Plaintiffs”) filed claims, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, against Defendant Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (“Defendant”) pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, and the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 177.21-177.35.[1] (Consolidated Am. Class Action Compl. [Doc. No. 31] (“Am. Compl.”) ¶ 1.) The Named Plaintiffs, who were all hourly employees at the Chipotle restaurant in Crystal, Minnesota (“the Crystal Restaurant”), generally allege that Defendant has a company-wide unwritten policy of requiring hourly-paid employees to work “off the clock” and without pay, and they seek to recover allegedly unpaid overtime compensation and other wages. (See id. ¶¶ 3-4.)

         On September 9, 2014, the Court conditionally certified the following collective under the FLSA:

All current and former hourly-paid restaurant employees of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. who were employed at Chipotle's Crystal, Minnesota restaurant and, on or after April 10, 2011, were automatically punched off the clock by the Aloha timekeeping system at 12:30 a.m. and continued to work, or who otherwise worked “off the clock” during closing shifts, resulting in non-payment of regular wages or overtime wages.

(Order of 9/9/14 at 31.) During the “opt-in” period, the following members joined the collective action and remain members: Larae Austin, Jazmika Briggs, Ryan Cox, Andrea Daher, George Dilliard, Jr., Martha Dubon Rivas, Emma Finkenaur, Richard Hamilton, Brian James, Edward Jones, Natesa Leanna, Katrina Londo, Jose Morales Soto, Anthony Ortega, Tiffany Slipka, Shane Saunders, Wayne Sorrell, Rye'nise Sumrall, Brian Thompson, Cedrick Washington, Shane Williams, John Xiong, and Jennifer (Young) Hofschulte. (See Consent to Join Forms [Doc. Nos. 77, 82, 129, 135, 139, 140].) These 23 members may be referred to collectively herein as the “Opt-in Plaintiffs” or, together with the four Named Plaintiffs, “Plaintiffs.”[2]

         B. Chipotle's Organization

         Defendant operates more than 2, 100 Mexican food restaurants, in 46 states and the District of Columbia, as well as internationally. (Decl. of David Gottlieb in Supp. Def.'s Mot. to Decertify [Doc. No. 249] ¶ 4.) Defendant's domestic restaurants are divided into nine geographic regions., and regional directors and executive team directors are responsible for the operations of the restaurants within their region. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Within a given region, the organizational structure, in order of descending authority, consists of a team director (who oversees a “market” of several areas, or “patches”), team leader (who oversees a group of stores for a certain patch), and restauranteur (a general manager who attains certain goals and may be given oversight of up to four additional stores). (See id. ¶ 7.) Since September 2011, the team director for Minnesota, which includes the Crystal Restaurant, has been Travis Moe. (Decl. of Kent M. Williams in Supp. Pls.' Opp'n Mem. [Doc. No. 394], Ex. M (Moe Dep. at 10-11); Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 32-34).) Until approximately July 2015, the team leader for the Crystal Store was Todd Patet, (Williams Decl., Ex. O (Patet Dep. at 23, 296-97); Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 38-39)), and Alex Cortez was the restauranteur with oversight over the Crystal Restaurant until November 2012, when Jose Ramirez was given that position. (Williams Decl., Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 11, 13).)

         The staffing in each Chipotle restaurant may include, in order of descending authority, a general manager, one or more “apprentices” (assistant managers, or “apprentice managers”), one or more service managers, one or more kitchen managers, and 15 to 50 crew members. (Gottlieb Decl. ¶ 9.) Service managers, kitchen managers, and crew members are paid on an hourly basis, whereas general managers and apprentice managers are salaried employees. (Id.)

         Currently, the Crystal Restaurant is staffed by a salaried general manager, two hourly service managers, one hourly kitchen manager, and approximately 21 full and part-time hourly crew members. (Id.) At least three persons served as the salaried general manager at the Crystal Restaurant during the relevant period: (1) Dustin Schultz, from the April 2011 start of the collective action period through approximately December 2011; (2) Jeff Mobley, from approximately December 2011 to February 2012; and (3) Jose Ramirez, from approximately February 2012 until March 2016. (Williams Decl., Ex. L (James Dep. at 23); Ex. J (Hobbs Dep. at 24); Ex. R (Thompson Dep. at 26); Ex. E (Dubon Rivas Dep. at 50); Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 9, 17, 107); Ex. F (Evenson Dep. at 31); Ex. G (Finkenaur Dep. at 29); Ex. C (Briggs Dep. at 31); Ex. T (Xiong Dep. at 25).) Most of the Named Plaintiffs and Opt-In Plaintiffs identified Ramirez as the general manager during their tenure. (See, e.g., Williams Decl., Ex. L (James Dep. at 23); Ex. J (Hobbs Dep. at 24); Ex. R (Thompson Dep. at 26); Ex. E (Dubon Dep. 50).) At least three persons served as apprentice managers at the Crystal Restaurant during the relevant period: (1) Julissa Douville, from the April 2011 start of the collective action period through approximately December 2011; (2) Armando Aguayo, from approximately December 2011 to April 2012; and (3) Flinte Smith, from April 2012 to October 2013. (Williams Decl., Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 92-93); Ex. M (Moe Dep. at 19); Ex. K (Hofschulte Dep. at 24); Ex. T (Xiong Dep. at 25); Ex. U (Smith Decl. ¶ 2); Ex. W (9/2011 Email Chain).) Most of the Plaintiffs identified Smith as their “manager.” (See Williams Decl., Ex. N (Ortega Dep. at 19); Ex. L (James Dep. at 24-25); Ex. S (Washington Dep. at 22); Ex. G (Finkenaur Dep. at 31); Ex. C (Briggs Dep. at 31); Ex. R (Thompson Dep. at 25); Ex. E (Dubon Rivas Dep. at 36).)

         The Plaintiffs are hourly employees who were employed at the Crystal Restaurant. Named Plaintiff Harris was a crew member from his hiring in January 2013 through his termination in April 2014, (Decl. of Jeffrey S. Gleason Decl. [Doc. No. 247], Ex. A (Harris Dep. at 14-15, 17, 32, 43)); Caldwell was hired as a crew member in April 2012 and was later promoted to kitchen manager, and later, service manager, before resigning in July 2013, (Ex. B (Caldwell Dep. at 15-16, 27, 150)); Evenson, hired in February 2012 as a crew member, later worked as a kitchen manager and service manager before resigning in June 2013, (Ex. D (Evenson Dep. at 24, 43, 46, 94)); Hobbs worked as a crew member from May 2012 until his resignation in May 2013. (Gleason Decl., Ex. E (Hobbs Dep. at 18, 24, 42).) The 23 Opt-In Plaintiffs, who worked at the Crystal Restaurant between 2010 and 2016, worked as crew members, hourly kitchen managers, and hourly service managers. (See Consent to Join Forms [Doc. Nos. 77, 82, 129, 135, 139, 140].)

         C. Chipotle's Policies

         Defendant has a formal “timekeeping/time punch policy, ” which states that “[a]ll hourly employees are paid for all time worked. This is the law and Chipotle's policy.” (Gottlieb Decl., Ex. 1 (June 2016 Crew Handbook at 25); Ex. 4 (June 2016 Restaurant Mgmt. Handbook at 18).)[3] It also states that “[h]ourly employees are not permitted to work unless clocked in. Working off the clock is not permitted, ever.” (Gottlieb Decl., Ex.1 (June 2016 Crew Handbook at 25).)[4] In addition, the policy provides a procedure for editing the time recorded in the timekeeping system. (Gottlieb Decl., Ex. 1 (June 2016 Crew Handbook at 26); Ex. 4 (June 2016 Restaurant Mgmt. Handbook at 19-21).)[5]Chipotle requires all employees at the Crystal Restaurant to review the applicable handbook and sign a form attesting to their understanding and compliance with its policies. (Gottlieb Decl. ¶¶ 12; 16.)

         Defendant's timekeeping system, called “Aloha, ” records its hourly employees' time. (Id. ¶ 24.) The Aloha system automatically “re-sets” for the next day at 12:30 a.m., which has the effect of clocking out any employee who was clocked in when the re-set occurred. (Id. ¶ 31-32.)

         D. Crystal Restaurant

         The former general manager and restauranteur of the Crystal Restaurant, Ramirez, testified that during the relevant period, there were two shifts at that location-a day shift and an evening, or closing, shift. (Williams Decl., Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 117).) The duties of the closing shift staff included cleaning, counting money, prepping food, and locking up. (Williams Decl., Ex. D (Caldwell Dep. at 89-91); Ex. N (Ortega Dep. at 45, 48); Ex. L (James Dep. at 58-59, 65); Ex. S (Washington Dep. at 39-40, 45); Ex. F (Evenson Dep. at 66); Ex. G (Finkenaur Dep. 49-50); Ex. C (Briggs Dep. at 67-69); Ex. K (Hofschulte Dep. at 47); Ex. T (Xiong Dep. at 26, 31).) When Ramirez worked at the Crystal Restaurant, he was generally the manager during the day shift and Smith was the manager during the evening shift. (Williams Decl., Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 118).) Ramirez typically scheduled one hourly manager and four hourly crew members to work the closing shift. (Id., Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 167).)

         The Crystal Restaurant is open to the public until 10:00 p.m. (Williams Decl., Ex. F (Evenson Dep. at 66); Ex. O (Patet Dep. at 71).) Ramirez generally scheduled the closing shift to conclude at 11:30 p.m. (Williams Decl., Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 220-21).) The team director at that time, Travis Moe, testified that the goal was for staff to leave the restaurant between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. (Williams Decl., Ex. M (Moe Dep. at 137-38).) However, Ramirez testified that employees working the night shift were required to stay until the store was fully cleaned. (Williams Decl., Ex. P (Ramirez Dep. at 120-21).) The general expectation, Ramirez testified, was that “everybody leaves together.” (Id.) Consistent with Ramirez's testimony, Plaintiffs who served as crew members testified that they stayed until all work was completed, (Williams Decl., Ex. L (James Dep. at 61); Ex. S (Washington Dep. at 37, 50-51, 63); Ex. G (Finkenaur Dep. at 77-78); Ex. R (Thompson Dep. at 57); Ex. E (Dubon Rivas Dep. at 33-34), and service and kitchen managers also stayed late to help crew members finish their duties. (Williams Decl., Ex. T (Xiong Dep. at 30-31).) During closing shifts, Plaintiffs testified to working past 12:30 a.m., and as late as 3:00 a.m. (Williams Decl., Ex. L (James Dep. at 64) (worked past 12:30 a.m. “frequently”); Ex. S (Washington Dep. at 47, 54) (estimated an average departure time of “about 1 o'clock”); Ex. I (Hawkins Dep. at 41) (stayed until 1:00 or 1:30 a.m. on Fridays or Saturdays); Ex. F (Evenson Dep. at 67) (worked until 12:30 or 1:00 a.m.); Ex. J (Hobbs Dep. at 58) (stayed after 1:00 a.m. “more than a couple times”); Ex. G (Finkenaur Dep. at 37) (recalled working until about 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.).)

         While Chipotle's written policies prohibited off-the-clock work, Plaintiffs testified that, in actuality, they were required to clock out and continue working, off the clock, until their work was completed. (Williams Decl., Ex. F (Evenson Dep. at 36, 68-69, 87-88) (Chipotle had “an official unwritten policy we were not allowed to clock back in after 12:30, or even when we were told to clock out at 11:15;” Smith and Aguayo made people work off the clock); Ex. J (Hobbs Dep. at 29, 34-35, 44) (it was “common sense” to not work off the clock, but that was not the policy at the Crystal store; Smith told him to clock out and keep working); Ex. K (Hofschulte Dep. at 53, 59, 64) (acknowledging that the practice of requiring off-the-clock work violated Chipotle's written policy, but Smith nonetheless told her to clock out and keep working); Ex. L (James Dep. at 68) (Aguayo, Smith, and Ramirez told him to work off the clock); Ex. G (Finkenaur Dep., 76-77) (“that was their written policy, but not what we were told”); Ex. R (Thompson Dep. at 37, 104-05) (policy at the Crystal Restaurant did not conform with the written policy and working off the clock “was mandatory with a manager”); Ex. B (Austin Dep. at 57-58) (employees were expected to finish cleaning by 11:15 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. and were required to clock out around 11:15 p.m. regardless of whether they were finished working); Ex. T (Xiong Dep. at 19, 37-40) (the “actual policy” was to require people to work off the clock and he was told to do so); Ex. C (Briggs Dep. at 73) (people were required to clock out at 11:30 p.m. and finish working); see also Ex. XX (Daher Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (“Chipotle required its hourly employees to work off the clock as needed to meet labor budgets. Plaintiff and others were specifically instructed to clock out before midnight or else the computer system would clock them out. Everyone was required to stay, even though they were clocked out.”); Ex. YY (Dilliard Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (“Chipotle required its hourly employees to work off the clock as a customary practice and Chipotle's system automatically clocked out employees before they were done working.”); Ex. ZZ (Sumrall Interrog. Resp. Nos. 3, 14 and 15) (“My managers directed me and other crew members to work off the clock and/or were aware that I and other crew members were made to work off the clock without being paid.”); Ex. AAA (Williams Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (“Chipotle required its hourly employees to work off the clock. There was an automatic time where everyone had to be clocked out and it seemed to be to conform to labor budgets.”); Ex. BBB (Jones Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (same); Ex. CCC (Hamilton Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (same); Ex. DDD (Sorrell Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (same); Ex. ZZ (Sumrall Response to Interrogatory No. 3) (same); Ex. EEE (Cox Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (same); Ex. AAA (Williams Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (same); Ex. XX (Daher Interrog. Resp. No. 3) (same).)

         In a declaration filed in a related lawsuit against Chipotle in the District of Colorado, Smith stated that his superiors, including Moe and Patet, were aware that the general managers and apprentice managers in Moe's 50-store area required their hourly employees to work off the clock in order to meet Chipotle's requirement “to do anything to keep labor costs down.” (Williams Decl., Ex. U (Smith Decl. ¶ 8).) Further, Smith stated that he was directed to clock out hourly night shift crew members before 12:30 a.m. and require them to keep working after they were clocked out. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         If an employee working the night shift did not clock out, the Aloha re-set would automatically clock out the employee at 12:30 a.m. (Williams Decl., Ex. N (Ortega Dep. at 57-58) (the automatic system would clock out employees if they did not do so); Ex. L (James Dep. at 64) (auto-clockouts happened “frequently”); Ex. S (Washington Dep. at 49-51, 56) (describing clocking out at the direction of management as well as being automatically clocked out without his knowledge); Ex. F (Evenson Dep. at 47-48) (stating that she kept working after she was automatically clocked out); Ex. J (Hobbs Dep. at 47) (describing the 12:30 a.m. automatic clockout); Ex. K (Hofschulte Dep. at 60) (stating that after 12:30 a.m., the computer would automatically clock out the employees); Ex. T (Xiong Dep. at 12) (“during evening shifts we were automatically clocked out at 12:30 and continued to be-to work until our task is finished”); Ex. G (Finkenaur Dep. at 62) (stating that her general manager, Jeff Mobley, told her to clock out during closing shifts or the Aloha system would do it automatically).) Smith, the former apprentice managers, stated “[d]ue to Chipotle's desire to keep down labor costs, shifts were often understaffed. Night shifts were usually so understaffed that we could not get all of our work done before the 12:30 a.m. ‘reset.'” (Williams Decl., Ex. U (Smith Decl. ¶ 11).) Plaintiffs testified that once they were clocked out, they were not permitted to clock back in. (Williams Decl., Ex. C (Briggs Dep. at 57-59) (stating that Smith and Aguayo told them they could not clock back in); Ex. L (James Dep. at 34, 69) (testifying that he was never told to clock back in after the 12:30 a.m. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.