As More Employers are Found to have Violated Child Labor Laws, Are You Doing What You Should to Protect Today’s Youth at Work?

In the last week, two major fast food employers were found to have violated child labor laws.  First, Manna, Inc., a franchisee of Wendy’s and Fazoli’s restaurants, allowed 14- and 15-year old employees to work more hours than approved by federal law, and allowed them to work outside the approved working hours for minors in that age range.  An investigation found 466 minors in nine different states whose hours worked violated federal rules.

In Massachusetts, giant-burrito maker Chipotle was fined $1.3 million when it was found to have committed more than 13,000 child labor violations between 2015 and 2019.  A three-year investigation revealed that the restaurant chain allowed Teenagers under 18 to work without proper work permits, late into the night and for too many hours, in violation of state labor laws.  The chain allowed 16- and 17-year old kids to work past midnight, work more than nine hours in a day and 48 hours in a week – all violations of the state’s laws.

Employers must be mindful of the two separate standards set by both the federal and state laws, and adhere to the most restrictive standards.

The Fair Labor Standards Act bars children under the age of 16 from working before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. on school nights, working more than three hours on a school day or more than eight hours on a non-school day during the school year.  It also places limits on the type of jobs children can work up until the age of 18.  There are exceptions for both work hours and acceptable occupations based on who the child is working for.

The rules for children working in Minnesota are a little more complicated, with variations for school nights, ages, times of day, and maximum hours based on age.  No children under the age of 16 are allowed to work before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., to work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.  High school students are not allowed to work after 11 p.m. on school nights or before 5:00 a.m. on school days.  There are, of course, exceptions to these rules, but they can be complicated.

It is important for all employers who hire school-age employees to be cognizant of child-labor laws, as forcing children to work long hours can have serious impacts on their growth and development, as well as their performance in school.  On top of this, there are hefty fines for each violation of the law discovered by the Department of Labor.

These massive employers undoubtedly had the resources to understand their obligations to young workers under the law, but still failed thousands of times in abiding by the restrictions of the law.  If you or your organization need assistance in navigating the laws protecting young workers, contact the Wiley Law Office, for advice that works.