Chipotle has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit accusing the chain’s higher-ups of purposely hiding from county health officials the fact that one of its restaurant kitchen managers had been sickened with the norovirus, until a couple of customers complained of similar symptoms.
The suit accuses the restaurant of “disposing of all food items, bleaching all cooking and food handling surfaces and replac[ing] its sick employees with replacement employees from other restaurants before notifying county health officials,” Fortune reported.
A manager at Ventura County Environmental Health Division said such action kept officials from properly sampling the food and kitchen ware, which could have led to confirmation of the norovirus.
The suit speaks specifically to an outbreak of norovirus at a Simi Valley, California, Chipotle that left 234 or so customers ill.
Plaintiffs say the kitchen manager was affected with symptoms of the norovirus, but kept working for another two days, when he was ultimately diagnosed. In that two-day time period, a couple of customers complained about norovirus symptoms. But Chipotle, rather than alerting county health officials, moved to cover up the outbreak, the suit alleges, the news outlet reported.
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In a statement to Fortune, Chipotle’s communications director, Chris Arnold, said: “As a matter of policy, we don’t discuss details surrounding pending legal actions. I’d note, however, that when this incident occurred, we took appropriate measures to address it, including notifying health officials in Ventura County.”
Chipotle, as WND reported, has been facing heavy criticisms, as well as legal action, for a string of food safety issues at restaurants around the country. The class-action suit suggests Chipotle was trying to conceal its norovirus outbreak in order to keep its stock price from falling further.