This past June, federal authorities seized fourteen 7-Eleven stores in New York and Virginia following the discovery that multiple owners and managers were falsifying information on Form I-9’s to hire employees not legal to work in the US. According to authorities the franchises were dealing out false social security numbers to pay illegal employees which lead to a request to audit the entire 7-Eleven enterprise.
The initial audit resulted in all franchises being required to show compliance by conducting an internal review of all employees and their employment eligibility Form I-9’s. 7-Eleven’s executive vice president, Darren Rebelez, reminded and warned its 5000 plus franchises that Form I-9 compliance steps are mandatory and “failure to comply will result in serious consequences, including the possible termination of your franchise agreement.”
Not only must all employees complete an I-9 form with true and accurate information, but under the Immigration Reform and Control Act, all US employers must verify the identity and work eligibility for all new hires. This information is documented in Section 1 and 2 of the Form I-9 where employees attest to their citizenship and verify their identity and work eligibility with appropriate documentation. Employers are responsible for keeping the original copies of the employee’s I-9 form for the purpose of inspections or review. The IRCA also requires the retention of terminated employees for three years after their date of hire or one year after their employment has been terminated, whichever is later.
The executive vice president went on to assure that 7-Eleven will be taking the steps to “protect the integrity and reputation of the 7-Eleven brand… and to ensure that all franchised stores are being operated in a lawful manner.” All franchises have the deadline of 1 month to show compliance with the internal review and fix any deficiencies that they may have with their employee’s employment authorization including absent or missing I-9 Forms. Failure to do so would result in the franchise’s termination. Starting in July 2013, 7-Eleven field consultants and market managers will travel to each individual store to audit all Form I-9’s completion and compliance with federal and state policies.
Currently prosecutors are expecting $30 million in forfeiture from the 14 stores and the Dallas based corporation. Following the audit of the initial franchises in violation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and federal prosecutors will be investigating an additional 40 New York 7-Eleven’s and abroad.