MANHATTAN, N.Y. — A rat infestation at a Manhattan Chipotle restaurant resulted in four employees being bitten by rodents over the span of several days, according to a local union.
Workers allege the Chipotle at 4009 Broadway continued to serve customers even as the infestation worsened. Now, they’re calling on the fast food chain to put worker safety above the company’s bottom line.
Chipotle worker Luis Gustavo Paulino Ruiz said he was bitten by a rat while moving boxes.
“It was terrifying. If something happened to me, my pregnant wife in the Dominican Republic would be left with no support,” he said Wednesday in a statement released by the 32BJ chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
Ruiz also said he was not the first employee to be bitten.
“When the first worker at my store was bitten by a rat, Chipotle did nothing. It felt like the company didn’t value us as people, they only cared about their own profits,” Ruiz said. “We told the manager that the rat problem was getting worse and worse. Workers had to chase the rats and try to kill them. I killed two rats with a stick. I felt uncomfortable every day and my coworkers and I were all scared of getting bitten.”
Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs and food safety officer, said the location has been closed for deep cleaning and pest control.
“The health and safety of our employees and guests is our top priority. The Columbia Presbyterian restaurant in New York City has been mainly closed since Nov. 23 due to a pest problem caused by vacated adjoining restaurants. During this time, we have arranged emergency pest service, deep cleaning of the restaurant and are working with the landlord to ensure improvements are made before reopening,” Schalow said in a statement to PIX11 on Wednesday.
The union alleges Chipotle was first notified of the rat infestation in October and only closed the restaurant location after the general manager was bitten. Two other employees had already been bitten by that point, according to the union.
The NYC Health Department said in a statement it received a complaint about the location on Nov. 30 and issued a warning letter, mailed the next day. Follow-up visits by an inspector and pest control took place Tuesday.
The department said “no active rat signs” were observed, though they did not access the back yard, and the location was closed for cleaning and examination.