Recent Chipotle Raids Remind Employers of I-9 Requirements

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Recent events in Minneapolis should remind all employers about I-9 forms and record keeping requirements. Chipotle has recently fired a substantial number of the 1,200 employees at its 50 Minnesota restaurants after a federal immigration audit found some were illegal workers. All employees have since been replaced. The terminated workers, and those protesting the restaurant’s actions, claim that the workers were fired without much explanation and without being given time to provide documents proving they were legal U.S. workers.

The investigation of Chipotle began several months ago when ICE asked to see work eligibility documents. The company was not told why it was singled out for review. ICE then provided Chipotle with a list of employees whose documents might be invalid, he said.

The audit of Chipotle and the work eligibility documents of its workers show the shifted focus from raids of worksites with illegal workers, such as those at the Swift plants in December 2006, to scrutinizing employer documents and audits . Employers who knowingly employ undocumented workers are subject to both civil and criminal fines.

All employees are required to show work eligibility when they are hired for a new position and to fill out a I-9 Employment Verification Form. Work eligibility can be shown with a document such as a US passport, or a combination of documents such as a state-issued ID and a birth certificate or a social security card. A driver’s license, on its own, is insufficient to show work eligibility as it only verifies one’s identity.

A growing number of employers have chosen to use E-Verify, an Internet-based, government-sponsored program that allows employers to instantly verify the work eligibility of an individual. More than 200,000 employers use E-Verify and those that have federal government contracts or sub-contracts are required to use it.

On February 1, 2011, I will be speaking with Annette Scotti of HRTechies, at our lunch & learn workshop about E-Verify and other issues that employers face when hiring employees. Sign up here…there are still a few places left!

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