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Organizational Change
Chipotle to Offer Employee Benefits Including Sick Pay, Tuition Reimbursement

Having already eliminated genetically engineered ingredients and removed carnitas from the menu in some locations rather than serve pork that doesn’t meet its animal-welfare standards, Chipotle Mexican Grill is once again walking its “Food with Integrity” talk — the burrito chain has announced it will expand benefits formerly reserved for salaried workers, including full tuition reimbursements, sick pay and paid vacations, to all employees on July 1, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

JD Cummings, recruitment strategy manager at Denver-based Chipotle, and William Espey, brand voice lead in Chipotle’s marketing division, made the announcement Thursday during a presentation at the annual Summer Brand Camp marketing and human resources conference.

“We just made an announcement internally that we are now going to be offering sick pay and paid vacation time for all employees at all levels of the company, including all entry-level employees,” Cummings said. “And we’re going to be offering the full-tuition reimbursement that we offer salaried employees to all hourly employees. It’s an incredible statement by our leadership about how much we want to invest in the best people we have and to keep them with us.”

The benefits will help recruit high school and college students, “which is a lot of our target demographic for entry-level positions in the restaurant,” he said.

“We have a lot of folks who, if they realize they could make a career with Chipotle, would stick with us while they are in college and take advantage of our tuition-reimbursement program,” Cummings said. “They could find the path to restaurateur is an amazing path that they might not have thought of.”

“The significance of Chipotle offering paid sick days and paid vacation to all their employees, including entry-level positions, cannot be understated,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, a non-profit dedicated to improving wages and working conditions for the nation's 10 million restaurant workers. “The vast majority of workers in the restaurant industry have access to neither of those basic benefits, posing a particular problem for our collective public health, as research shows that 60 percent of restaurant workers have been forced to work while sick.

“We commend Chipotle for its commitment and leadership in continuing to move the restaurant industry forward. ROC sends its thanks to co-CEOs Monty Moran and Steve Ellis, and to their entire team, for taking seriously the issues most important to restaurant workers."

Expanding benefits in employment development has been ongoing in the restaurant industry this year. Starbucks recently said it would expand its tuition reimbursement program, launched in June 2014, from two to four years for its more than 140,000 full- and part-time workers. The coffee chain has partnered with Arizona Sate University to offer full tuition coverage for 49 online degree programs, and committed to seeing at least 25,000 graduates by 2025. The benefits will be available to employees who work at least 20 hours a week at Starbucks and its affiliates.

“If you can’t compete at the bottom in the terms of entry-level wage, what incentive can you build into that process — what path can you create — that’s going to hold your people?” Espey asked. “You’ve got to promise them you’re going to develop them. You’ve got to promise them a future that if they are dedicated and good and strong for the company, you are going to reward them.”

Opportunities for advancement are one way Chipotle’s management thought it could differentiate employment at the company, Cummings said; the company said about 95 percent of managers are promoted from existing crew members.

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