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7-Eleven moves to check workers' legal status

Federal agents stand outside of a 7-11 in

Federal agents stand outside of a 7-11 in Islip, one of 10 locations on Long Island closed and seized by government authorities. (June 17, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

The 7-Eleven chain will begin checking whether operators of more than 5,000 franchised stores have proof that their employees are in the United States legally and eligible to work here, the company's national management announced Thursday.

The action follows raids Monday on 14 franchised stores on Long Island and in Virginia, and the arrests of 11 operators and managers on charges of knowingly employing undocumented workers, forcing them to work as many as 100 hours a week, live in operator-owned housing, and failing to pay adequate wages.

Agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement also raided a number of other 7-Eleven stores around the country on Monday, apparently checking the status of workers there.

The results of those raids have not been released.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it had taken control of two stores in Virginia that had not been the subject of federal raids but which had been operated by franchisees named in the indictment.

The federal raid had targeted 10 stores on Long Island and four in Virginia. A spokesman for 7-Eleven could not immediately provide the name or names of the operators of the Virginia stores that were taken over.

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's Eastern District, which is coordinating the 7-Eleven investigation, declined to comment.

In a letter to all franchise operators Thursday, a national executive of 7-Eleven said the company will begin inspecting the stores on July 1, giving operators time to conduct "an internal review" of their compliance with federal law and company policies. Employers are required under federal law to have forms attesting to the eligibility of employees to live and work in the United States.

In the letter, the executive said if there are "substantive violations" of the law in checking on the status of employees, the company could take steps to take over the franchises. "We know that you are the sole employer of all associates in your stores, and we are not attempting to interfere with your employment relationship or control how you hire, fire or manage your employees," said Darren Rebelez, 7-Eleven chief operating officer, in the letter. "However, we have a critical need to protect the integrity and reputation of the 7-Eleven brand."

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