LEXINGTON, SC – A U.S. Department of Labor investigation that found child labor violations at nine Burger King franchise locations in the Columbia area has prompted the restaurants’ operator to enter into a compliance agreement and change the way it operates to improve working conditions for minor-aged workers at all current and future locations of this brand.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division reviewed the time records of Applegreen USA Central Services LLC – operating as Burger King – and found the employer allowed 26 minor-aged employees, ages 14 and 15, to work more than 3 hours on a school day, and past 7 p.m. while school was in session. By permitting these employees to work outside of permitted hours with school in session, Applegreen USA Central Services violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, and was assessed $17,966 in civil money penalties to address the violation.
The investigation’s findings motivated the franchisee to work with the division to review workplace practices at their Burger King locations and, as a result, Applegreen USA Central Services LLC will take the following steps to ensure future compliance with federal laws:
Enforce child labor regulations to include adhering to the hours standards for minors.
Require all managers to complete a compliance acknowledgement after receiving the division’s fact sheet for employing youth in restaurants.
Include the employment of minors as a new training topic for all newly hired or promoted managers.
Include an enforcement provision as a new section to the Applegreen employee handbook to address child labor provisions of the FLSA.
Require all newly hired employees under the age of 16 to sign an acknowledgement form that outlines the hours restrictions under the law.
Implement and ensure minor-aged employees are aware of a reporting mechanism for situations when managers ask the employees to violate child labor regulations. In addition, Applegreen will not allow any form of retaliation or discrimination against anyone who uses the reporting mechanism.
“With schools back in session, employers must make sure each member of their management team is familiar with and implements child labor rules concerning hours and permitted occupations. By entering into an enhanced compliance agreement with the Wage and Hour Division, Applegreen USA Central Services has shown they’re committed to protecting the safety and well-being of young workers,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jamie Benefiel in Columbia, South Carolina.
“What began as an investigation to determine compliance with labor standards turned into an opportunity for this business owner to make practical changes to help their workers and avoid costly violations at dozens of restaurant locations,” Benefiel added. “We encourage other employers to use this agreement as a roadmap and to contact us for assistance.”
Applegreen USA Central Services LLC has more than 120 locations in the U.S., including the following gas stations: BP, Pitt Stop, 7-Eleven, Shell, Sunoco and Smart. The enterprise also operates multiple fast-food franchises such as Burger King, Pizza Hut, DeLucas and Subway restaurants.
In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the division’s Southeast region found child labor violations in more than 190 food service employers investigated, resulting in more than $1 million in penalties assessed to employers. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting near record levels of workers quitting their jobs, and record low unemployment rates, the current job market is forcing employers to be highly competitive.
“Employers who turn to younger workers must ensure they are familiar with the rules and regulations governing child labor,” Benefiel added. “Employers who abide by the law will have a competitive advantage over those who do not in recruiting and retaining workers.”
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including resources available online where employers, parents, teachers, and minor workers can get information about protections for young workers on the department’s YouthRules! website, as well as learning the seven child labor best practices for employers.