Posted on March 11, 2011

Chipotle Workers Quit Ahead of Immigration Audits

Lisa Baertlein, Reuters, March 8 2011

Workers have been leaving Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc in the nation’s capital and Virginia since getting notice that U.S. immigration officials are auditing restaurants in the area.

A survey of help-wanted websites, including Chipotle’s own, shows a higher level of hiring in those markets than in others like Ohio, where the company has twice as many units.

Chipotle co-Chief Executive Monty Moran called the departures “very limited” and said they came after he told workers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was reviewing worker eligibility documents at the chain’s roughly 60 restaurants in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Just a few months earlier, a similar audit resulted in the firing of 450 undocumented workers at the chain’s Minnesota restaurants.

“Some people in those restaurants–although it was very, very few–decided to sort of opt out at that point or go look for another job. I guess I would suspect that their documents were probably ones that would be suspect,” Moran said on a webcast from the Raymond James Institutional Investors Conference in Orlando on Tuesday.

Chipotle is a Wall Street darling, in part because its labor costs are lower than most of its peers’. {snip}

The burrito chain, whose motto “Food with Integrity” is based on serving naturally raised meats and other premium food, is on a hiring spree in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.