If you run a restaurant in NYC, then you understand what a hot topic current immigration law is. Most restaurant kitchens are staffed by immigrants, and many of those immigrants are undocumented. While you might not have spent much time in the past vetting your employees, that sort of negligence can come back to haunt you. If you happen to be visited by ICE officers who are conducting a raid of your kitchen, you might end up in legal trouble for hiring and employing persons who are not legally here. It's not enough to feign ignorance of the law, and with the current political climate as it is, you can't bury your head in the sand and go on working as always. Here's two ways to safeguard your restaurant right now.
Starting Now, Do Thorough Background Checks On All Current and Prospective Employees
You might have simply hired someone based on another employees suggestion in the past, but this is a surefire way to get yourself in trouble. Friends and family members will cover for someone, and you might not know their true immigration status. So, you should have a formal background check performed on all employees. The same process that you use with your managerial staff, hostess, and other front of house staff should be used with the back of house staff.
If the background check on current employees found that any of them are not documented, then you need to address that situation as soon as possible. Speak with an immigration lawyer before you do anything. You should not just barge into the kitchen and fire the person. Besides being inhumane, it can also open you up to a civil suit for firing someone based on their immigration status. This can open you up to a civil suit. The immigration attorney will know how to handle the situation. It might be that the employee can file for an extension and then continue working for you while their paperwork is in processing.
Don't Pay People "Off The Books"
While it might be commonplace for restaurants to pay people under the table, especially some of the back of house staff, this is one of the big hurdles to making sure your people are legally documented. When they are paid in cash, and you have no tax information about them, there is no way to tell if they are legal or not. While people who are "on the books" might supply you with social security numbers which turned out phony, that will at least show that you made a good faith effort to make sure your employees were legal.
Besides that, running a restaurant with too many "off the books" workers can bring down the IRS on you. So, if you are already dealing with a large number of off the books workers, you will need to get them on the payroll as soon as you can.
Again, when you are dealing with undocumented, or people with questionable status, it is best to bring in an immigration lawyer who can help you, and also consult with the employees, about how best to produce the paperwork and make sure everything is running according to the law.