Customer Accuses Chipotle Of Covering Up For Manager Who Put Spy Cam In Bathroom

A woman in Texas claims that not only did a manager at her local Chipotle repeatedly install spy cameras in the restaurant’s female restroom, but that the restaurant and its corporate office covered up the peeping; a charge the Chipotle HQ denies.

According to a lawsuit [PDF] filed this week in a Brazoria County, TX, court, a female employee at a Missouri City Chipotle noticed a tiny spy cam — like the one seen at right, which can be bought online for less than $25 — pointed directly at her while she used the toilet.

According to the complaint, this employee recalled that a male manager, Joanny, had recently volunteered to clean the ladies’ restroom. She took the camera down and left the restroom, but allegedly saw that same manager sneak back into the restroom.

“When he exited, he was frantically running around the Chipotle store advising employees that a customer had called and claimed to have left a small video recording device in the restroom and asked if anyone had seen it,” reads the complaint.

The employee was apparently reluctant to tell Joanny that she had the camera until he claimed that it had a GPS locator built in. She decided to give him the camera, says the lawsuit, and he claimed to have returned it to the customer.

But then, three days later this employee says she once again spotted the same spy camera “discreetly placed under the restroom sink in exposed polybutylene piping.” (See image from lawsuit at left.)

Rather than give it to Joanny, who she suspected of placing the camera, the employee turned it over to the General Manager, Franco, who was in the building at the time.

According to the lawsuit, after other employees learned of this second incident, they demanded that Franco bring the camera back to the restaurant so that it could be turned over to the police. Franco came to the location the next day, with two members of Chipotle senior management: the “restaurateur,” referring to the top manager for this location; and a “team leader” who has responsibility for multiple locations.

Franco brought the camera with him, but employees say the memory card was missing. Franco allegedly told them the card had “popped out in my car but I will try to find it.”

At that meeting, manager Joanny once again claimed that the camera belonged to a customer and that he had returned it to this customer after the first employee had discovered it.

Another female employee said she was going to call the police to sort this out, but that the senior managers allegedly “attempted to persuade her that it would not be prudent to do that,” and told her to contact Chipotle security instead. Disregarding their advice, this employee called Missouri City police.

Police officers arrived and directed Franco to turn over the memory card. According to the suit, he initially balked, saying he would need to have someone come to remove his vehicle’s seats, but when the police said that was not a possibility, he was able to locate the card and provide it to officers.

The employee was eventually fired and arrested, however the account given in the lawsuit differs from what Chipotle told local media about the spy camera. In April, Chipotle told the Houston Chronicle that it contacted the police immediately after learning about the camera — not that it was an employee calling 9-1-1 over managers’ alleged advice.

The actual plaintiffs in this lawsuit are a young girl and her mother — the case has been filed using pseudonyms — who contend that the 5-year-old was likely caught on video in the bathroom during the time this camera was in place.

In a statement to Courthouse News, Chipotle HQ maintains that it was not involved in any cover-up and that it responded in a timely manner to the discovery of the camera.

“We were shocked and appalled to learn that one of our employees may have been involved in this incident. When it was brought to our attention, we took swift and decisive action to terminate that employee, and pledged our full cooperation with the law enforcement investigation and prosecution of the individual who is allegedly involved,” reads the statement. “It has always been our aim to work with individuals who may have been impacted by this issue to see that it is resolved, and that continues to be our focus. We maintain zero-tolerance policies for behaviors that compromise the safety and well-being of our customers or employees, and will continue to enforce those policies if ever they are violated.”