Recently news of Chipotle being investigated by ICE hit many local, state, and national news sources. Chipotle is an upscale Mexican grill who has been under the ICE microscope for about a year. The inspections are not random and have come about as a result of investigation and intelligence gathering.
Chipotle, unlike many other fast food chains like Burger King, Subway and McDonalds, is all corporate . Burger King, Subway, McDonalds and many other chains are often franchise so the hiring onous falls on the local owner of the franchise. What Chipotle has been undergoing is what is known as an I-9 Audit. What exactly is an I-9 audit?
According to Reuters:
WHAT IS A FORM I-9?
Additional information from USCIS
-An I-9 is an employment eligibility verification form. All U.S. employers must complete and retain an I-9 for each individual they hire in the United States, citizens and noncitizens alike. On the form, the employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity documents an employee presents to determine if the person can work legally in the country.
WHAT DO EMPLOYERS DO WITH THE FORM?
– The forms are not filed to the government. The form I-9 must be kept by the employer either for three years after the date of hire or for one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later. The form must be available for inspection or auditing by authorized U.S. government officials.
HOW DOES THE GOVERNMENT GO ABOUT SUCH AUDITS?
– A company will receive a “notice of inspection” from ICE and then its I-9s will be subject to audit and review. ICE says such inspections are not done at random and are based on leads and intelligence gathering.
HOW LONG DOES THIS TAKE AND WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?
– The whole process can take months or even years from the notice of inspection to the closing of the case, which may or may not result in a fine.
The amount of such fines has dramatically increased according to data provided by ICE. Fines totaled just over $1 million in fiscal year 2009 and rose to nearly $7 million in 2010.
(Sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Reuters)
Companies can run in to trouble if many employees present fraudulent documents when they are hired. Most managers are only trained in the basics of spotting false paperwork. Since the company retains the I-9 verification forms, there is no red flag for on the spot checks. Chipotle has fired employees when notified of questionable identity matches.