As Chipotle is grappling with lawsuits stemming from E. coli and norovirus outbreaks at several of its restaurants, the Mexican chain is facing another legal challenge—this time over charges of sex discrimination.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that three former female general managers have filed a discrimination suit in Cincinnati federal court against the chain.
The lawsuit claims that the women were routinely discriminated against and wrongfully terminated by a male supervisor despite high evaluations.
Plaintiffs Stephanie Ochoa and Tina Reynolds both said they'd either been promoted or had earned high praise from their supervisors just months before being fired and replaced by a male employee. Tina Rodgers, the third plaintiff, alleges that she was fired in retaliation for taking maternity leave, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
According to the lawsuit, Herman Mobbs, the former Cincinnati area manager who the three women reported to told one of the plaintiffs that “there sure are a lot of overweight women working here.” On another occasion, he told one of the women, “you’re too emotional.”
A Chipotle lawyer, Kate Mowry, said Chipotle terminated the women’s employment based on work performance, not their sex. She added that Mobbs hired and fired both male and female employees.
After citing a slew of negative evaluations written namely by Mobbs against the plaintiffs, Mowry said, “These women were terminated because they did not meet the basic standards of restaurant management.”
The trial began Monday, with the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ lawyers giving opening statements to the jury of three men and five women and is expected to last about two weeks.
Earlier this month, Chipotle was sued for allegedly misleading investors about its food safety controls. It's also under a criminal investigation over a norovirus outbreak at one of its California stores.
The chain's sales have tanked since an E. coli outbreak that came to light at the end of October.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.