Some of the fired workers claimed they were intimidated and weren't paid what they were owed. Councilmen Jim Graham and Kwame Brown were not happy about the workers' situation and wrote to the company about it threatening investigations. Here's a Chipotle spokesperson's response when I got in touch with them:
The incident to which you are referring stems from an internal review of immigration status of employees at a couple of our Washington, DC restaurants. Last week, we lost about 40 employees at two restaurants having learned that they were not legally authorized to work in this country. While this is certainly a frustrating situation for everyone involved, under the law, we cannot employ anyone who is not legally authorized to work in this country. In this case, many of the employees chose to leave their jobs, others had to be let go. In every case, we have paid the employees everything they are owed, but we can't continue to employ them.I asked how they were employed in the first place but haven't yet heard back. We'll see what comes of this.
UPDATE from Chipotle in regards to how they were hired in the first place:
Like all companies, we confirm the identity and work authorization of each person we hire, but we must do so without engaging in any discriminatory conduct. We take this responsibility very seriously and have invested extensive time and money in training our managers and human resources teams to review employment eligibility and documentation carefully. But forged documents can be very difficult to recognize. Ultimately, we cannot employ any individual who is not legally authorized to work in this country.