ATLANTA – Millions of minors under the age of 18 join the U.S. workforce each year – many in the food industry – and the U.S. Department of Labor is working hard to ensure restaurant employers in the Southeast know their legal obligations regarding the employment of minors and to curb a recent increase in noncompliance.
In support of their efforts, the department’s Wage and Hour Division invites restaurant employers, minor-aged workers and their parents, school representatives and other interested stakeholders to join its Southeast Region for a Child Labor Lunch and Learn webinar on Feb. 10 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. EST. This event provides an opportunity for participants to learn more about federal laws governing youth employment. Participation is free, but registration is required.
In the Southeast, the division found child labor violations in more than 190 food service industry employers investigated in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, resulting in over $1 million in penalties assessed to employers. In addition, investigations recovered over $1.5 million in back wages and liquidated damages for over 2,000 workers. The division’s southeast regional office has responsibility for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Investigators identified the following child labor violations as most common:
Hours standards laws for 14-and-15-year-olds.
Allowing 14- and 15-year- olds to engage in prohibited or hazardous occupations.
Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to engage in hazardous occupations.
Allowing workers under 16 years old to engage in hazardous occupations.
Failing to keep accurate records for youth workers.
“In nearly 200 closed investigations, the Wage and Hour Division found employers allowed minors to work longer hours or more frequently than permitted, without knowledge of the workers’ ages. In over half of those cases, the employers also allowed minors to do dangerous or prohibited work,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to preventing child labor violations, ensuring the safety of young workers, and ensuring that youth gain the benefits of work experience without suffering a negative effect on their academic progress.”
The division offers many compliance resources, including a fact sheet on employing youth in restaurants and its YouthRules! website for information on providing youth a positive and safe work experience.
For information about other laws enforced by the division or to report a violation, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Calls can be answered confidentially in over 200 languages. 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.