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Chipotle workers canned over their immigration status have a pair of new champions: D.C. Councilmembers Michael A. Brown and Jim Graham.

Responding to the “mass firings” of about 40 employees last week, Brown and Graham sent a letter to Phil Petrilli, Chipotle’s regional director for the Northeast. In the letter, Brown and Graham urge Petrilli to “address the concerns of your former employees with dignity and respect.”

“We are deeply concerned abut allegations of intimidation towards these workers, exploitation, and discrepancy of wages among employees predicated on their ethnic background or legal status, coercion into resigning their positions rather than termination, and the possibility of no being paid previously agreed upon wages including vacation hours,” the letter reads. “These former employees are entitled to receive their full pay of all wages and benefits accrued during their employment at Chipotle through the date of separation.”

A federal immigration audit of the up-market burrito chain started in Minnesota late last year and moved to the D.C. area this winter.

Miguel Bravo, a Chipotle employee in Columbia Heights, tells Reuters that his manager was fired without warning, a new team came in, and it became clear he and his fellow workers were expected to leave.

According to Bravo, when employees went to the back of the store to ask a company representative why their manager had just been fired, a new crew came in through the front door and took their assigned places in the restaurant: “We understood that this was obviously a dismissal, but they made it seem like we abandoned our jobs.” Bravo tells the news agency that a similar mass canning happened last week at the Woodley Park Chipotle.

In the letter, Brown and Graham also state that if Chipotle does not address their concerns, they “will notify the Office of Wage and Hour at the D.C. Department of Employment Services… to begin investigations.” They also say they will consider holding hearings on the issue, should their concerns not be resolved.

Photo by Flickr user sun dazed using an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license