SALT LAKE CITY – The operators of a growing chain of specialty beverage and dessert shops founded in Utah employed 19 young teens for more hours and times than federal law permits, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation has found.

The investigation came as part of a heightened education and enforcement effort by the department’s Wage and Hour Division as the agency reported more than 3,800 minors employed in violation of child labor laws in fiscal year 2022, an annual increase of 37 percent. The rise follows the addition of more young workers to the workforce during and after the pandemic.

The division determined that Sodalicious allowed 14- and 15-year-old employees to work past 7 p.m. when school was in session, after 9 p.m. during summer months, and more than 3 hours on a school day at four of its Utah locations in Midvale, Orem, Provo and South Jordan. By doing so, the employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s provisions for employing youth in restaurants and quick-service establishments.

“Our investigators continue to see an increase in child labor violations, especially in the food service industry,” explained Wage and Hour Southwest Regional Administrator Betty Campbell. “Employers like Sodalicious are legally responsible for knowing and complying with federal child labor laws and making sure their employment practices do not jeopardize the safety of young workers or interfere with their education.”

The division assessed the employer with $13,946 in penalties to resolve the infractions.

Founded in 2013 by Annie and Kevin Auernig, Sodalicious owns and operates 25 locations offering custom-mixed sodas and desserts primarily in Utah, with five locations each in Arizona and Idaho.

Federal labor law prohibits the employment of workers under the age of 14 in non-agricultural settings. 14- and 15-year-olds must work outside of the hours of school and cannot work:

More than 3 hours on a school day, including Friday.
More than 18 hours per week when school is in session.
More than 8 hours per day when school is not in session.
More than 40 hours per week when school is not in session.
Before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on any day, except from June 1 through Labor Day, when nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.
In March 2022, the division’s Southwest Region issued a press release to remind Salt Lake City-area employers of the importance of complying with federal child labor laws, and its stepped up enforcement efforts. The news release highlighted two investigations with violations similar to those cited in the Sodalicious case.  

“We hope that employers in the region view this case as a reminder of the importance of abiding by child labor laws and the costly consequences related to violating the law,” Campbell added.

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division.

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