McDonald’s franchisees fined after 305 minors, including 10-year-olds, found working illegally

McDonald’s franchisees fined after 305 minors, including 10-year-olds, found working illegally

McDonald’s location in Louisville, Kentucky.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

More than 300 minors — including two 10-year-olds who were unpaid — were found to be working in violation of federal labor laws at McDonald’s franchise restaurants across Kentucky and other states, the U.S. Labor Department said this week.

The franchisees in total face over $200,000 in estimated civil money penalties.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division determined three separate franchisees operating 62 McDonald’s locations across Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Ohio violated federal labor laws by employing 305 children to work more than the legally permitted hours, as well as perform tasks illegal for young workers. Of the 62 restaurants, 45 were in Kentucky, according to department data.

“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, said in a statement to NBC News. “It is not lost on us the significant responsibility we carry to ensure a positive and safe experience for everyone under the Arches.”

The news comes as Republican lawmakers have targeted child labor laws nationwide. This week, GOP state lawmakers in Wisconsin circulated a bill that would allow 14-year-old workers to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants. Republican-led bills have also been pushed in states like Arkansas, Iowa and Ohio that would make it easier for teenagers to work longer hours and more jobs.

Labor Department investigators discovered two 10-year-olds working unpaid as late as 2 a.m. at a McDonald’s location in Louisville, Kentucky, operated by Louisville-based Bauer Food LLC, according to a Tuesday release.

According to NBC News, Bauer Food LLC said the 10-year-olds were children of a night manager visiting their parent at work and thus were not approved by management to be in that part of the restaurant. The franchisee has taken steps to make clear to employees all policies regarding children visiting a parent or guardian at work.

That franchisee was also found to be employing 24 children under 16 to work more than legally permitted hours, according to investigators, amounting to $39,711 in civil money penalties. These hours are restricted by law to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., except between June 1 and Labor Day when they extend to 9 p.m.

“Too often, employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers. 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,” said Karen Garnett-Civils, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division district director in Louisville.

Archways Richwood LLC, based in Walton, Kentucky, was found to have allowed 242 children aged 14 and 15 to work more than the allowable hours. The Labor Department said children were found to work more than three hours on school days and earlier or later in the day than the law allows, amounting to an estimated $143,566 in penalties.

Archways Richwood LLC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bell Restaurant Group I LLC, also in Louisville, was found to have allowed 39 workers aged 14 and 15 to work outside allowable hours, amounting to an estimated $29,267 in penalties, the department said.

Last year, the Labor Department division found that 688 minors were employed illegally in hazardous positions in fiscal year 2022, the highest annual count since fiscal year 2011. The division said a 15-year-old child was injured in June 2022 in Tennessee while using a deep fryer.

“One child injured at work is one too many. Child labor laws exist to ensure that when young people work, the job does not jeopardize their health, well-being or education,” said Garnett-Civils.

(With inputs from CNBC)