- Twelve McDonald's restaurants in North Carolina will pay $17,586 for alleged child labor violations following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD), according to a July 21 announcement.
- The operator of the restaurants, Mt. Airy Partners, employed 35 workers who were 14 and 15 years old. WHD said it violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by allowing these employees to work hours beyond what is legal for that age group. It also failed to maintain proof of age records for its minor employees, as mandated by the FLSA, the agency said.
- "Child labor laws exist to strike a balance between providing a meaningful work experience for young people and keeping them safe on the job so that the work does not jeopardize their health and well-being or educational opportunities," WHD District Director Richard Blaylock said in the press release.
It's not uncommon for fast-food restaurants to face allegations of child labor law violations. The summer makes an apt time for such employers to review child labor law rules, WHD sais in guidance, as minors often use their vacations to find work.
The rules for workers under 18 can be complex, they vary by age group and industry and often intersect or overlap with state laws. Last summer, the Massachusetts attorney general fined 22 Qdoba locations more than $400,000 for allowing minors to work more than 11 hours in a single shift, among other violations. Chipotle agreed this January to pay $1.37 million to settle claims by the same attorney general that it committed an estimated 13,253 child labor violations. A month later, Massachusetts Wendy's restaurants paid $400,000 to settle similar allegations.
Minors may work "no more than three hours on a school day and between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the period of Labor Day through June 1," according to federal law, WHD pointed out in its press release. Child labor rules differ industry by industry, however. And, of course, states may enact their own rules.
There are several other legal boundaries fast-food restaurants often push when it comes to their employment of minors, WHD noted in guidance. These areas include allowing minors to operate or clean meat slicers or commercial mixers; load, operate or unload balers or compactors; drive vehicles on the job; and bake, a restriction that applies only to 14- or 15-year-old employees.