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Hundreds of children, including two 10-year-olds, were found to be illegally working at multiple McDonald’s locations across Kentucky, according to the Department of Labor.
In a May 2 news release, the department said investigators from its Wage and Hour Division found approximately 305 children were employed across Bauer Food LLC, Archways Richwood LLC, and Bell Restaurant Group I LLC—three separate franchisees that operate a total of 62 McDonald’s locations across Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio.
The minors were working more than the legally permitted hours and performing tasks prohibited by law for young workers, officials said.
“Too often, employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers,” said 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.”
According to the department, among the children discovered illegally working at the restaurants were two 10-year-old minors at a Louisville, Kentucky McDonald’s restaurant operated by Bauer Food LLC, where they were not paid and allegedly sometimes made to work as late as 2 a.m.
The two children prepared and distributed food orders, cleaned the store, worked at the drive-thru window, and operated a register, officials said. One of the children was also allowed to operate a deep fryer, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Child Labor Laws
Overall, Bauer Food LLC employed 24 minors under the age of 16 to work more than legally permitted hours, officials said.
Labor law states that children aged 14 years or over are allowed to be employed, although working hours are limited to outside of school hours and to certain amounts each day.
Minors are also prohibited from working in hazardous working conditions, such as jobs involving excavation, driving, and the operation of various power-driven equipment.
Bauer Food was fined $39,711 in civil money penalties to address the child labor violations, the Department of Labor said.
Bauer Food franchise owner Sean Bauer told CBS News that the children were in the store visiting their parent, who works as a night manager, and that franchisee organization management had not approved the minors being in that part of the restaurant. He added that any work the children undertook was done at the direction of and in the presence of their parent.
He also noted that the company has informed all employees regarding the company’s policy as it pertains to children visiting their parents or guardians at work.
More Minors Found Working Illegally
Investigators also found 242 minors between aged 14 and 15 working beyond permitted hours at Archways Richwood LLC, a Walton, Kentucky-based operator of 27 McDonald’s locations. Officials said the minors worked earlier or later in the day than legally permitted and more than three hours on school days.
Archways Richwood was ordered to pay $143,566 for the violations.
Elsewhere, the department found 39 workers aged between 14 and 15 were working outside of and for more hours than legally permitted at restaurants operated by Bell Restaurant Group I LLC.
“Some of these children 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,” the department said. Investigators also found the employer systemically failed to pay workers overtime wages.
As a result of the child labor violations Bell Restaurant Group was ordered to pay $29,267 in civil money penalties and the Department of Labor also recovered $14,730 in back wages and liquidated damages for 58 workers.
The Epoch Times has contacted spokespersons for Bauer Food, Archways Richwood, and Bell Restaurant Group for comment.
Biden Vows to Crackdown on Child Labor
“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. An employer, parent, or young worker with questions can contact us for help understanding their obligations and rights under the law.”
According to Department of Labor data, 835 minors were found to be working illegally across the United States in the fiscal year 2022, of which 688 were found to be illegally employed in hazardous occupations, marking the highest count on record since 2011.
In February, the Biden administration vowed to crackdown on a surge in the illegal exploitation of children for labor in the United States, citing a nearly 70 percent increase in kids being employed illegally by companies over the past five years.
The increase comes amid an ongoing immigration crisis that has led to a surge in children entering the country without their parents.
“These reports are unacceptable, deeply troubling, and run afoul of the high expectations we have for the entire McDonald’s brand,” Tiffanie Boyd, senior vice president and chief people officer at McDonald’s USA, told CBS News.
“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,” Boyd added.
The Epoch Times has contacted a McDonald’s spokesperson for further comment.