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We agree that current immigration laws are flawed and believe they put employers in an untenable position. It’s a very difficult situation for us. Ours is a culture that is built on recognizing our highest performing employees and developing them into future leaders in our company, so it is a big loss to us when we lose great people. But we cannot employ anyone once we learn that they are not legally eligible to work in this country. To do so would not be legal. Chipotle has, and will continue to promptly pay everyone for all hours worked, as well as for unused vacation time and bonuses. If any employee does not feel as if they have been paid everything they are owed, they can contact us and we will look into it to be sure no errors were made. This is a heartbreaking situation for us, but we must follow the law.
This situation in Minnesota began when the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) asked us to give them all of the documents provided to us by all of our Minnesota restaurant employees so ICE could inspect the documents to determine the work eligibility of these employees. We do not know why ICE made this request of us, but as you are likely aware, ICE has been increasing its efforts over the last couple of years, making similar requests of more than 3,200 companies across the country.
We complied and provided ICE with all of the requested documents, as we are required to do by law. ICE has now completed their review of the documents and provided us with a list of employees whose documents ICE believes may not be valid.
Under the law, we cannot employ anyone who is not lawfully eligible to work in this country. We are required by law to ask all employees on ICE’s list to provide us with valid documents or to clarify any errors that may have been made in checking their authorization status. As we have spoken to these employees about ICE’s request for new documents, many of them are telling us that they are unable to produce valid documents. When this happens, we pay the employee for all of the time they have worked, vacation, and bonuses earned, but the law does not allow us to continue to employ them.
This is a heartbreaking situation for us to be losing so many excellent employees. We have robust and continuously improving policies and procedures in place to help us ensure that everyone we hire is eligible to work in this country and we are troubled that, in spite of these policies and procedures, we are losing these excellent employees. But everything we are doing in this area is, and must be fully compliant with the law.
Chipotle has been and will continue to be completely truthful with our employees. We are not terminating any employee who is able to produce documents showing that they are entitled to work in this country. However, for those who have no such documents, we cannot continue to employ them. In every case, we have communicated this to each and every employee in an in-person meeting. Every employee has been given the opportunity to provide new documents or to correct any administrative errors. It would be our strong preference that these employees provide the required documents. Unfortunately, most of them simply do not show up for work after being told of this issue. For those that tell us that that they believe ICE has made a mistake, we have given them additional time to clarify their status. The vast majority of our employees completely understand the situation. Nonetheless, we have agreed to send a letter to each employee who has been impacted by this to once again explain the situation, as well as to provide a copy of the Notice of Suspect documents we received from ICE.
Chipotle has and will continue to promptly pay everyone for all hours worked, as well as for unused vacation time and bonuses, and we have done so. Even when employees did not return after meeting with their manager, we sent their final pay via overnight mail to their homes. If you are aware of any case where employees are saying they have not been paid everything that they are owed, please direct those people to the human resources contact we provided, and we will make sure there has been no mistake. We are honoring all of the compensation and benefit policies that we have, and that have been communicated to all of our employees.
If we knowingly employ workers who are not authorized to work in the US, we are breaking the law. 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. Nonetheless, for each and every employee who has told us that they can provide valid documentation, we are working with them to allow them to do so. It is our strong preference to be able to retain every one of these employees who is lawfully entitled to work in this country. We do not want to lose them. If any one of these employees can later show that they are properly documented and able to work in the US, it will be our pleasure to give them a job at Chipotle once again.
Chipotle offers wages and other benefit programs that are fair and competitive, and include paid vacations, annual bonuses, a matching 401k plan, twice yearly raises based on performance, limited medical and dental benefits, competitive wages, paid breaks, and a great work environment. And because of our deep commitment to promoting from within, we are creating meaningful career opportunities for our employees. These compensation and benefit programs go well beyond what many other restaurant companies provide.
This is a heartbreaking situation for us, but we must follow the law.