Several Pei Wei Asian Diner restaurants in the Phoenix area remained closed Monday, more than two weeks after the arrest of 26 workers in an ID-theft investigation.
A spokeswoman for P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc., which owns the 168-unit fast-casual Pei Wei brand, said the company hoped to have the units open by the end of this week as it worked to hire and train replacement staff.
Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff’s deputies arrested the Pei Wei workers in raids on four restaurants and P.F. Chang’s corporate headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz. The workers had apparently used false identities when they applied for their jobs at the chain.
The Arizona raids made Pei Wei the second restaurant chain this year to have its workers investigated. Earlier, Chipotle Mexican Grill let go of many of its employees in Minnesota following sweeps by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The ICE’s investigation of Chipotle was later expanded to Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said Monday that none of the chain’s units was closed by the investigations.
Under the Legal Arizona Workers Act that into effect in 2008, employers in the state are required to check worker documents through the federal E-verify program.
Nancy Mailhot, Pei Wei’s chief people officer, said earlier this month that “E-verify helps but unfortunately it is not fool-proof or fraud-proof.” Pei Wei’s Mailhot said the chain also uses its 401(k) retirement plan vendor to help assure proper documentation.
Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].