Chipotle Mexican Grill has fired a substantial number of the 1,200 employees at its 50 Minnesota restaurants after a federal immigration audit by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office found some were illegal workers.
The circumstances of the firings, which began in early December, prompted a protest Thursday at a downtown Minneapolis Chipotle restaurant. Minneapolis police arrested eight participants after they chained themselves together inside the restaurant, according to protest organizers.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the employees were given an opportunity to provide documention of their citizenship.
Chipotle would not disclose how many workers were fired for allegedly working illegally; however, a source close to the situation said the number of Minnesota employees fired was closer to 350.
Chipotle has apparently replaced the terminated employees. Its Minnesota employment was 1,200 both before and after the firings, said spokesman Chris Arnold.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The investigation of Chipotle began several months ago, Arnold said, 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.
Chipotle tries to screen new employees, but some provide false documents showing they are eligible workers, Arnold said. In cases where employees insist they have the proper documents, Chipotle has sought to give them extra time to produce the identification, he said.
"We have asked ICE whether they would allow a 90-day period to resolve discrepancies, and they have told us that they absolutely would not," Arnold said.