McDonald's Sign - © WTTV

A Trip Back To The Middle Ages As Easy As A McDonald’s Run…

If you’re in Kentucky or Tennessee, you could just make a McD’s run – until recently. The U.S. Department of Labor just busted three regional McDonald’s operators using children in their restos – some as young as 10 – in defiance of child labor laws…

McDs Test Resto - Austin TX - © 2022 McDonald's 2022One operator charged in the Kentucky and Tennessee busts was found
to have underage kids working as late as 2:00 a.m. Another
was letting kids as young as 10 operate deep fryers…

A senior DOL district spokesperson summed up the situation in stark terms:

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

More the rule than the exception?

The official news release from the DOL paints an pretty ugly picture:

“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. These children sometimes worked more hours a day or week than the law permits, whether or not school is in session. 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.
  • Archways Richwood LLC – a Walton-based operator of 27 McDonald’s locations – allowed 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.
  • 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.”

More than just a nuisance

“Those darned federal labour laws. What a nuisance!” I can hear the folks at Baur, Archways and Bell lamenting. I assume they thought they wouldn’t be caught.

Even though more than 300 kids were found to have worked hundreds of hours at 62 different McD’s locations, under conditions contrary to the law, it may be that the employers were just thinking like the Good Old Boys (and Gals) from Kentucky and Tennessee they are.

Somebody around the board table may have recalled they had an uncle who still bootlegged out in the woods. Another may have rationalized that their mom sold unpasteurized milk to city folks and restaurants who came out from town under the cover of darkness to get it.

‘We’re under the radar,” someone might have concluded. “Nobody in Frankfort or Nashville – let alone Washington – gives a hoot about what we do down here.”

Not so, apparently.

Fines almost an embarrassment

“[Total] assessments of $212,544 in civil money penalties against the employers,” doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent, all things considered. But it’ll have to do, for now. Judging by the contents and style of the news release, the feds are more interested in using the Kentucky and Tennessee busts are examples, to demonstrate that nobody is ‘under the radar’. They take the opportunity to invite the media to drum the letter of the  law into those who would flaunt it:

:Federal child labor regulations limit the types of jobs minor-aged employees can perform and the hours they can work. Hours limits for 14- and 15-year-olds include:

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

“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,” says Garnett-Civils. “An employer who hires young workers must know the rules. An employer, parent or young worker with questions can contact us for help understanding their obligations and rights under the law.”

By the book…

The DOL’s Wages and Hours Division also recently published a guide titled: Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers. Come to think of it, the busts also provide a great opportunity to promote the launch of the new booklet…

~ Maggie J.