MANCHESTER, NH – Each year, employers hire millions of young people in the food services, retail, recreation and construction industries to add staff to meet their labor needs during peak periods. At the same time, and in response to increases in violations of federal child labor laws, the U.S. Department of Labor has increased its employer outreach and enforcement actions to help employers prevent young workers’ jobs from jeopardizing their safety and well-being.
Since 2015, the department’s Wage and Hour Division has seen increases in child labor investigations and Fair Labor Standards Act violations. In fiscal year 2021, the division found 2,819 minors employed in violation of the law and assessed employers with nearly $3.4 million in civil money penalties.
This year, the division’s Northern New England District Office in Manchester has taken strong enforcement actions, including conducting investigations that found these child labor violations in the food services industry:
At nine McDonald’s franchise locations in Vermont and New Hampshire, Coughlin Inc. allowed 142 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to work beyond the number of hours federal law permits. Additionally, it allowed 18 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to use deep-fat fryers not equipped with devices to automatically raise and lower the fry baskets and allowed four minors to use an oven to bake. Two minors received burns while performing restricted work. The employer paid $109,125 in assessed civil money penalties for the violations.
At 12 Dunkin’ franchise locations, Vermont Donut Enterprises LLC and related LLCs allowed 44 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to work in excess of the federal hours restrictions. The employers allowed 17 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to operate high-speed ovens, with six minors receiving burns while performing prohibited baking duties. One of the employers also allowed a 16-year-old worker to operate a motor vehicle to make trips between two locations. The employers paid $49,756 in assessed civil money penalties for the FLSA violations.
Tuscan Kitchen and Tuscan Market in Salem, Toscana Chop House in Portsmouth, and Tuscan Sea Grill in Newburyport, Massachusetts, allowed 11 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to work excessive hours under federal law and employed one 13-year-old minor, which is below the federal minimum age of 14 for most employment in non-agricultural occupations. The employers paid $15,737 in assessed civil penalties.
Following the division’s investigations, Coughlin Inc. and Vermont Donut Enterprises signed enhanced compliance agreements designed to reduce future child labor violations. The agreements include the following “best practice” measures that employers with minor-aged workers should consider implementing:
In order to prevent 14- and 15-year-olds from using restricted equipment, the employers will use color-coded name tags to quickly identify workers by ages, using one color for 14- and 15-year-old workers and another for 16- and 17-year-old workers.
Provide supervisors with employer-conducted training sessions on youth employment restrictions.
Supply minor-aged workers with youth rules-related publications upon hire and provide specific instructions to them to adhere to child labor laws.
Appoint a compliance director to oversee child labor compliance, and spot check time records to ensure adherence with hours restrictions.
Place signage to prevent 14- and 15-year-old workers from using prohibited equipment, and “Stop” stickers on all equipment considered hazardous for workers under 18 years old in nonagricultural employment.
“Ensuring the safety of our youngest workers and bringing employers into compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s child labor restrictions are high priorities for the Wage and Hour Division,” said Wage and Hour District Director Steven McKinney in Manchester, New Hampshire. “We encourage employers to be proactive and to use best practice measures to ensure they protect young workers.”
“As the labor market tightens, employers may look to younger workers to fill job vacancies. However, there are limits on what jobs young workers can perform and how often they can work,” McKinney added. “We urge employers to review our YouthRules! initiative materials and Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers web site. Employers may also contact the Wage and Hour Division directly with questions they may have regarding how to keep minors safe in the workplace.”
The division’s Northern New England District Office in Manchester is also offering free webinars for employers, parents and educators to learn more about the FLSA’s youth employment protections on Sept. 29 from 10-11 a.m. and Oct. 6 from 2-3 p.m. While attendance is free, registration is required. Register for Sept. 29 webinar. Register for the Oct. 6 webinar.
For more information about young workers’ rights and other employee rights enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions regardless of immigration status, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
Read a fact sheet on Fair Labor Standards Act wage protections and the restaurant industry. The division offers information for employers and for young workers, parents and educators about child labor to promote positive and safe work experiences for teens.