Chipotle facing sexual discrimination lawsuit

Posted at 2:38 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 14:38:49-05

CINCINNATI — In the midst of dealing with lawsuits related to a recent E. coli outbreak throughout the country, Chipotle Mexican Grill is facing more litigation.

This time, the charges involve sexual discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in March 2013, claims three female employees were fired from their positions unfairly. The lawsuit also makes a general claim that male employees were treated better and retained their jobs more often than their female counterparts, regardless of performance evaluations.

The lawsuit was filed by Stephanie L. Ochoa, Tina M. Reynolds and Elizabeth A. Rogers. The trial began Jan. 25.

According to the lawsuit, Rogers began working as general manager for the chain’s storefront in Crescent Hills, Ky., in 2003. In 2011, Rogers informed her supervisor, named in the suit as Brian Patterson, that she was pregnant with twins and was put on bed rest.

One twin did not survive the May 2011 delivery, and the other remained hospitalized for 4 months, the lawsuit states. During that time, Rogers’ brother-in-law also died, prompting Rogers to tell Patterson she was not ready to return to work.

Over the course of her return to work — which began in August 2011, less than a month after her brother-in-law’s death and before her newborn child was released from the hospital, the suit states — Rogers was assisted by Herman Mobbs, a former area manager who covered the store while she was on leave.

The next month, a risk management audit of Rogers’ store earned a “B” grade, but — the lawsuit claims — another audit conducted by Mobbs 10 days later yielded a “D” grade.

The suit charges Mobbs had not spoken with Rogers about the second audit. When Rogers confronted Mobbs as to why he did not speak with her, he was “hostile and argumentative,” according to the lawsuit.

In Nov. 2011, Rogers was “written up” after Mobbs told her the store was understaffed. Approximately 10 days later, Mobbs terminated Rogers, the lawsuit states.

Similarly, the lawsuit alleges Ochoa, who began working at Chipotle in 2005, was working at the chain’s Downtown Cincinnati location in 2012 when she was terminated and replaced with a male employee, despite continual praise and biannual bonuses during her nearly 4 years at the location.

Reynolds, who had been reviewed as “above expectations” and promoted numerous times during her 2-year tenure at Chipotle, was fired from her position as general manager of the chain’s Western Hills location in 2011, the suit states, and also replaced by a male employee.

The case initially named four additional plaintiffs from restaurants located in Oxford, West Chester Twp., Clifton and Kenwood. Those claims were dismissed by a judge before trial.

While litigation continues regarding the recent E. coli outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the spread of the disease seems to have stalled.

Eric Schwartzberg with WCPO media partner, the Dayton Daily News, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.