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According to a DOL release, the department’s Wage and Hour Division investigated Bauer Food LLC, Archways Richwood LLC, and Bell Restaurant Group I LLC – three separate franchisees who operate a total of 62 McDonald’s locations in Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio.

McDonald’s franchisees fined after children as young as 10 found working

Three Louisville-area McDonald’s franchisees have been ordered to pay over $212,000 after 305 minors were found working more than legally permitted.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from McDonald's.

Three Louisville, Kentucky-area McDonald’s franchisees have been ordered to pay $212,754 in civil penalty fines after a Department of Labor investigation found 305 minors, including two 10-year-olds, working more than their legally permitted hours.

According to a DOL release, the department’s Wage and Hour Division investigated Bauer Food LLC, Archways Richwood LLC, and Bell Restaurant Group I LLC – three separate franchisees who operate a total of 62 McDonald’s locations in Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio.

The division’s investigations found the following:

  • Bauer Food LLC, a Louisville-based operator of 10 McDonald’s locations, employed 24 minors under age 16 to work more than legally permitted hours. Investigators also determined two 10-year-old children were employed – but not paid – and sometimes worked as late as 2 a.m. Below the minimum age for employment, they prepared and distributed food orders, cleaned the store, worked at the drive-thru window and operated a register. The division also learned that one of the two children was allowed to operate a deep fryer, a prohibited task for workers under 16 years old. The division assessed $39,711 in civil money penalties to the franchisee. 
  • Archways Richwood LLC, a Walton, Kentucky-based operator of 27 McDonald’s locations, was fined for allowing  242 minors between age 14 and 15 to work beyond the allowable hours. Most worked earlier or later in the day than the law permits and more than three hours on school days. The division assessed the employer with $143,566 in penalties.
  • Bell Restaurant Group I LLC is a Louisville-based operator of four McDonald’s locations and part of Brdancat Management Inc., a larger enterprise that includes Jesse Bell I, Jesse Bell V and Bell Restaurant Group II, which operates an additional 20 locations in Maryland, Indiana and Kentucky. The division found the employer allowed 39 workers – ages 14 and 15 – to work outside of and for more hours than the law permits. The division assessed the employer $29,267 in civil money penalties. Investigators also found the employer systemically failed to pay workers overtime wages they were due and as a result, the division recovered $14,730 in back wages and liquidated damages for 58 workers.

“Too often, employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers,” Wage and Hour Division District Director Karen Garnett-Civils said in a statement. “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.”

In a statement emailed to Nation's Restaurant News, Tiffanie Boyd, senior vice president and chief people officer of McDonald's USA, wrote: "These reports are unacceptable, deeply troubling and run afoul of the high expectations we have for the entire McDonald’s brand. It is not lost on us the significant responsibility we carry to ensure a positive and safe experience for everyone under the Arches. I know how important it is that every restaurant fosters a culture of safety. As a mother whose teenage son proudly worked at our local McDonald’s, I feel this on a very personal level. 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."

Federal child labor regulations limit the types of jobs 14-and-15-year-old employees can perform and the hours they can work. While most cases with child labor violations involve minors working more and later than the law permits, the division found 688 minors employed illegally in hazardous occupations in fiscal year 2022, the highest annual count since fiscal year 2011. Among those was a 15-year-old minor injured while using a deep fryer at a McDonald’s in Morristown, Tennessee in June 2022.

In December, a Pittsburgh-area McDonald’s franchisee paid more than $57,000 in civil penalties to resolve child labor violations at 13 restaurants following a federal investigation. In August, a Florida Chick-fil-A franchisee paid more than $12,000 in penalties after the department found it permitted minors to work past 7 p.m. ore more than three hours during a school day and, last spring, the department assessed more than $161,000 in penalties against a group of Little Caesars franchisees due to child labor violations. Also, last year, Chipotle and the New Jersey Department of Labor agreed to a $7.75 million settlement resolving more than 30,000 alleged labor law violations impacting minors.

As the labor shortage persists in the industry and elsewhere, the division said it is seeing an increase in child labor violations.

“We are seeing an increase in federal child labor violations, including allowing minors to operate equipment or handle types of work that endangers them or employs them for more hours or later in the day than federal law allows,” said Garnett-Civils. “An employer who hires young workers must know the rules … Child labor laws exist to ensure that when young people work, the job does not jeopardize their health, well-being or education.”

That said, a few states have moved to relax child labor protections, including Arkansas which passed a law earlier this year to permit children under 16 to get hired. An Iowa bill allows children as young as 14 to work night shifts, while additional  proposals have been introduced in Minnesota, Ohio and Georgia. New legislation introduced this week in Wisconsin would allow children as young as 14 to serve alcohol to restaurant customers.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected] 

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