As previously reported in EmployNews, in December a creative group of plaintiffs’ lawyers filed suit against Chipotle in federal district court in New Jersey. The lawyers contended that despite a Texas federal court’s injunction, the Department of Labor’s new minimum salaries for white collar overtime exemptions took effect as scheduled. The suit argued that the injunction only prevents DOL from enforcing the new salary level and has no impact on private suits under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Chipotle responded to the collective action claim by filing a motion for contempt before the Texas court that issued the injunction. Last week, the New Jersey court agreed to Chipotle’s motion to stay the collective action claim until the Texas court rules on Chipotle’s contempt motion. This decision may reflect the New Jersey court’s doubts over the validity of the plaintiffs’ legal theory. Chipotle is seeking sanctions against both the named plaintiff and the attorneys who filed the lawsuit. A sanctions order from the Texas court may bring a quick end to the lawsuit and discourage other plaintiffs from attempting similar claims.