Pro's Ranch Markets fires 300 after workplace audit
About 300 employees at Pro's Ranch Markets' six Valley supermarkets were let go Tuesday and Wednesday after an initial Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency audit found them to be working illegally in the United States.
The fired employees can appeal the decision, but they are prohibited from working during the process.
Julie Pace, an attorney for Pro's Ranch Markets, said most of the affected workers gave the company forged documents when asked to demonstrate their eligibility to work in the United States.
Only citizens and non-citizens with work-authorization documentation are permitted to hold jobs in the United States.
"We complied with all the requirements, but they were still able to slip through," she said.
Pro's Ranch Markets has about 1,500 employees in the Valley.
The company eventually could be fined as a result of the action.
Pace said Pro's Ranch Market gave terminated employees packets containing an immigration-resource list, parting message from the company's president and a $250 grocery gift card.
Pro's Ranch Market is among 1,654 U.S. businesses, including 84 in Arizona, that have undergone audits of their employee eligibility forms, called I-9 forms, since July 2009.
All employees (citizen and non-citizen) hired after Nov. 6, 1986, must fill out the forms that document their eligibility to work in the United States. Employers are required to maintain the forms and, on request, turn them over to ICE agents for inspection.
Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman, would not say how many of the 84 companies audited in Arizona were found to have illegal workers. Some of the audits are ongoing, she said.
Nationwide, an initial inspection of 85,000 I-9 forms from 654 companies found about 14,000 suspect documents.
The agency fined 61 of the companies a total of $2.3 million.
Pro's Ranch Markets is based in Ontario, Calif., and maintains a regional headquarters in Phoenix. It operates 12 Latin-themed supermarkets in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.