Throughout Chipotle's massive purge of employees suspected of lacking work papers over recent weeks, the company has more or less maintained radio silence.
Neither the press nor the fired workers themselves were able to learn much about firings except that they were prompted by an I-9 audit or "desktop raid" conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But recent accusations by some fired workers that they haven't received their final paychecks has prompted a denial from the restaurant chain's Denver headquarters.
"We are paying all employees any and all wages they are owed, including bonuses earned and any unused vacation time," Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told City Pages in an email on Friday.
At a meeting of fired workers the next day, however, many of the workers said they still haven't received their last paychecks.
Arnold also roundly denied accusations by some of the fired workers that they were discriminated against and forced to work unpaid overtime while working at Chipotle.
When Immigrations and Customs conducts an audit, it first asks the employer to send it I-9 forms and other employment documentation for its employees. The company then has three days to comply.
After reviewing the documents, ICE notifies the employer of any fishy-looking paperwork. Workers must be given a chance to straighten out any misunderstandings, but if they can't prove they're entitled to work in the U.S., the company has to fire them or risk fines up to $3,200 per violation.
Faced with this kind of federal scrutiny, Chipotle says it has no choice.
"Chipotle is proud to have such a dedicated and diverse workforce and we are saddened to be losing some excellent employees--many of whom have been with us for several years.... While the laws in this area put employers in an untenable position--having to strike the difficult balance between enforcing immigration laws while not discriminating against any applicant--all of our policies and practices are and must fully comply with federal and state law."
Chipotle also says it is "exploring opportunities" to collaborate with community groups to help the workers it fired.