AVON, OH – Despite being warned in September 2021 that the hours worked by 14- and 15-year-old employees at its Slim Chickens’ franchise in Streetsboro violated federal law, the owner continued the illegal practices for several months at a second location in Avon, the U.S. Department of Labor has found.
An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Ohio Slims LLC and David Giesen – owner of the Avon and Streetsboro restaurants – assigned 15 minors to consistently work hours at the Avon location that violated child labor provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 2021, the division identified similar violations at the Streetsboro location.
Specifically, investigators found – on more than 330 occasions – the employer allowed minors to work later than 7 p.m. during the school year or after 9 p.m. between June 1st and Labor Day. They also learned that, in more than 150 instances, minors under 16 worked more than 3 hours on a school day. Sometimes, the employer assigned minors to work more than 8 hours on a day when school was not in session and more than 18 hours total during a school week, all in violation of federal regulations.
The division assessed Slim Chickens with $15,504 in civil money penalties for the violations. The employer has paid the penalties and agreed to comply with federal child labor laws immediately.
“The restaurants’ operator blamed the child labor violations on managers confused by differences in federal and state wage laws, but our investigators found the employer committed the same violations after being informed of their requirement to comply with federal law,” explained Wage and Hour District Director Matthew Utley in Columbus, Ohio.
Under state law, 14- and 15-year-old employees in Ohio may work until 9 p.m. during school breaks of five days or more. Federal law prohibits 14- and 15-year-old employees from working after 7 p.m., from Labor Day through June 1, and does not have an exemption for school breaks. From June 1 through Labor Day, federal law allows 14- and 15-year-olds to work until 9 p.m. The Department of Labor’s position is that employers must follow the more stringent law if state law differs from federal law. The Wage and Hour Division offers fact sheets for employers on FLSA compliance.
“When state and/or local laws differ from federal law, the regulation that best protects the employee should be followed,” Utley continued. “For example, in Ohio, employers are required to pay the state minimum wage of $10.10 per hour even though the federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25. By paying the higher wage of $10.10 the employer maintains compliance with both state and federal requirements. Employers subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act should use this case as a reminder of how to proceed when they find state regulation to be different.”
Giesen owns and operates three companies – Giesen Management Associates of Centennial, Colorado, D & J Giesen and Ohio Slim LCC – as one unified enterprise. In addition to the Slim Chickens’ locations in Avon and Streetsboro, the companies also operate seven Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers locations in Akron, Dover, North Canton and Zanesville, Ohio; and in Montrose and Grand Junction, Colorado.
In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that workers aged 16-19 years old comprised nearly 11 per cent of the nation’s workforce. From fiscal year 2017-2021, the department identified child labor violations in more than 4,000 cases, finding more than 13,000 minor-aged workers employed in violation. To assist employers and inform young workers and their parents, the division recently published “Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers.”
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for Android devices, free and also available in Spanish, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.