April 16, 2024
10-year-olds were found working at a Kentucky McDonald’s without pay —sometimes until 2 a.m., Labor Department reports

10-year-olds were found working at a Kentucky McDonald’s without pay —sometimes until 2 a.m., Labor Department reports

Two 10-year-olds were found working at a McDonald’s in Louisville, Ky., the U.S. Department of Labor reports, sometimes until 2 a.m.

Not only is this illegal, but the kids also weren’t being paid.

They were among 305 children that a Labor Department investigation found working illegally at three McDonald’s MCD, -0.20% franchises, which run 62 restaurants in Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio.

“Working in a kitchen late at night near dangerous cooking equipment is a reality for many adults in the food service industry,” the Department of Labor said in a news release. “But finding 10-year-old kids in such a work environment is a cause for concern and action by the U.S. Department of Labor.”

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has been cracking down on child labor abuses in the Southeast, and looked into three McDonald’s franchisees: Bauer Food LLC, Archways Richwood LLC and Bell Restaurant Group I LLC. And the Labor Department investigation found labor violations that went beyond just hiring kids under 14. Kids were also found working during school hours, and doing tasks prohibited by law for younger workers.

So what are the laws for young workers under 18?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the wage, hours worked and safety requirements for minors (anyone under 18) working in jobs, and the rules vary depending upon the particular age of the minor, and the particular job involved. But as a general rule, the FLSA sets 14 as the minimum age for employment, and limits the number of hours worked by minors under the age of 16. Some of these rules include:

  • Work must be performed outside of school hours.
  • Minors can work no more than 3 hours on a school day – including Fridays – and no more than 8 hours on a non-school day.
  • Minors can work no more than 18 hours during a school week, and no more than 40 hours during a non-school week.
  • Minors can work no earlier than 7 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m., except between June 1 and Labor Day in the summer, when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m.

The Labor Department found the following violations while investigating these McDonald’s franchisees:

The division’s investigations found the following violations:

  • Bauer Food LLC, a Louisville-based operator of 10 McDonald’s restaurants, employed 24 minors under age 16 to work more than the legally permitted hours. The investigators also found two 10-year-old children were employed – but not paid – and sometimes worked as late as 2 a.m. These children prepared and distributed food orders, cleaned the store, worked at the drive-thru window and operated a register. And one of the two children was allowed to operate a deep fryer, which is prohibited for workers under 16 years old.
  • Archways Richwood LLC, a Walton-based operator of 27 McDonald’s locations, let 242 minors between age 14 and 15 to work over the allowable hours. Most clocked in earlier or later in the day than the law permits, and worked more than three hours on school days.
  • Bell Restaurant Group I LLC, a Louisville-based operator of four McDonald’s locations, allowed 39 workers ages 14 and 15 to work outside of and for more hours than the law permits. Some of these children also worked more than the daily and weekly limits during school days and school weeks, and the employer allowed two of them to work during school hours. Investigators also found the employer systemically failed to pay workers overtime wages that they were due.

These violations have led to a total $212,544 in fines for those three franchisees.

“Too often, employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers,” Wage and Hour Division District Director at the Department of Labor’s Karen Garnett-Civils said. “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.

“Child labor laws exist to ensure that when young people work, the job does not jeopardize their health, well-being or education,” she added.

McDonald’s was not immediately available for comment. But Tiffanie Boyd, senior vice president and chief people officer at McDonald’s USA, told CNN that, “These reports are unacceptable, deeply troubling and run afoul of the high expectations we have for the entire McDonald’s brand. We are committed to ensuring our franchisees have the resources they need to foster safe workplaces for all employees and maintain compliance with all labor laws.”

Some of the franchise owners have disputed the Labor Department’s report.

Sean Bauer, one of the impacted franchise owners, said the two 10-year-olds found during the Labor Department’s investigation were visiting their parent, who was a night manager, and weren’t actually employees.

“Any ‘work’ was done at the direction of — and in the presence of — the parent without authorization by franchisee organization management or leadership,” Bauer said Wednesday in a prepared statement, adding that they’ve since reiterated the child visitation policy to employees.

There were 835 documented cases of child labor violations in 2022, according to Department of Labor data. But it should be noted that these are the violations that the Labor Department has confirmed, and the real amount of child labor law violations is likely much higher.

The fines for those violations have increased considerably, with the Department of Labor issued about $4.4 million in fines in 2022, compared to the $1.9 million it issued in 2013.

But while there are federally mandated child labor laws, states can implement their own laws, as well. And some places have been relaxing labor laws from younger works.

In Arkansas, for example, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently signed the “Youth Hiring Act” which has made it easier to higher teens under 16. Children under 16 no longer have to get the Division of Labor’s permission to be employed, and the state doesn’t have to verify the age of those under 16 before they take a job anymore.

And a bill introduced by Wisconsin lawmakers could loosen restrictions on teens serving alcohol at eating establishments. Under the current law, only workers age 18 and above can serve alcohol to customers in the state. But the bill would broaden that to workers between 14 to 17, although they could only serve customers seated at tables, and not patrons sitting or standing at the bar.


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