an image of fries

In an era where workplace ethics and standards are under increasing scrutiny, recent investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor into violations committed by three McDonald’s franchisees in Kentucky clearly signal the critical need to safeguard the rights and well-being of young employees. The findings revealed a stark reality: minors, including 10-year-olds, were employed in positions that exposed them to dangerous environments and exceeded legally permissible working hours.

The investigations conducted by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor underscored a disheartening pattern of negligence and disregard for the law among Bauer Food LLC, Archways Richwood LLC, and Bell Restaurant Group I LLC. These franchisees, collectively managing multiple McDonald’s locations across several states, were found in violation of federal labor laws.  The investigation found 305 minors, including ten-year-olds, were working in violation of federal law. Their actions resulted in a cumulative penalty assessment of $212,544.

The violations uncovered numerous violations, ranging from employing minors under the legal working age to allowing young workers to operate hazardous equipment, work longer hours than legally allowed, and perform tasks prohibited by law. Instances where children, barely into their teenage years, were working during school hours and beyond the restricted hours stipulated by federal regulations were particularly alarming.

The Wage and Hour Division’s Director, Karen Garnett-Civils, emphasized the gravity of these findings. “Under no circumstances should there ever be a 10-year-old child working in a fast-food kitchen around hot grills, ovens, and deep fryers,” she asserted, highlighting the paramount importance of enforcing child labor laws to protect vulnerable young individuals from physical harm and exploitation.

Federal regulations governing child labor are unequivocal about the types of jobs minors can perform and the hours they can work. Stringent guidelines exist to safeguard their safety and education. It’s imperative for employers to abide by these regulations to ensure the well-being of their youngest workforce members.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) outlines the regulations concerning child labor in the United States. These laws are designed to protect the educational opportunities and health of minors. Here are the key provisions regarding child labor under the FLSA:

  1. Minimum Age for Employment: The FLSA sets the minimum age for employment in non-agricultural jobs at 14 years old. However, some exceptions exist for specific types of work and industries that allow employment at younger ages.
  1. Hours and Types of Work for Minors (Ages 14-15): For those aged 14-15, there are restrictions on the hours and types of work permitted:
  • They can work outside school hours but not during school hours.
  • Work hours are limited to 3 hours per day on school days, 8 hours on non-school days, and a maximum of 18 hours per week during the school year.
  • During non-school weeks, they can work up to 40 hours per week.
  • They can only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (extended to 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day).
  1. Prohibited Hazardous Occupations: The FLSA also specifies hazardous occupations that minors under 18 are generally prohibited from performing, including operating heavy machinery, handling explosives, mining, and working in certain jobs within the food service industry, among others.

Employers, parents, and young workers are encouraged to seek guidance and clarification about their obligations and rights under the law. The Wage & Hour attorneys at Abney Law can help you determine whether your rights have been violated and how to fix it.