Chipotle Grill’s I-9 Compliance Nightmare

Here’s another reason to ensure your company’s I-9 procedures are in compliance with the law.

Federal immigration officials have already forced Chipotle to fire close to 500 hundred employees in Minnesota after an I-9 audit found that many of the employees had used forged documents to gain employment.

Now, ICE is broadening their investigation into the fast food chain’s hiring practices and on May 3rd, visited 20-25 restaurants around the country checking on the immigration status of all their workers.

In its defense, Chipotle representatives said they require two different types of identification to verify that an employee has legally entered into the country.  However, many illegal workers submit forged documents which are easily available to them. “We are surprised at what’s happened here because we are very careful about who we hire, and we try to hire the very best people,” said Monty Moran, Chipotle’s co-CEO. “For each person, we get all the required documents. And even after those reviews, we found that lo and behold, we’ve got a good number of people who apparently submitted documents which were in fact not authentic, despite the fact that they looked to be.”

Before firing the employees in Minnesota, Chipotle gave the workers the opportunity to provide the proper identification but most of them could not comply.  To further exacerbate the situation, the firings set off a backlash from former employees and labor activists in Minnesota.

Besides a blow to the reputation of the firm, the I-9 audits have caused a fall in the chain’s stock value and could cause more firings.  Also, if immigration officials find that the chain knowingly hired workers without legal permission to work in the U.S., it could cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

In case you think this is a “one off” situation, be reminded that last year, ICE Agents audited 2,740 companies, resulting in a record $7 million in fines against businesses that employed illegal workers.  The goal of the federal government, according to the Homeland Security Newswire, is to inspire the same level of compliance as firms already do with the Internal Revenue Service.

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