- 13 McDonald’s restaurants in Pennsylvania violated child labor laws, according to a federal investigation.
- The franchisee is paying a penalty of $57,332 and says it is taking steps “to ensure employees have proper hours.”
- The research underscores the challenges of relying on teen workers.
A McDonald’s franchisee in Pennsylvania is paying a nearly $60,000 fine after a federal investigation found the fast-food operator committed child labor violations involving 101 minors at 13 McDonald’s locations.
The franchisee, Santonastasso Enterprises LLC, was charged with assigning shifts to 14- and 15-year-old workers who violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the US Department of Labor, the shift violations included teens who worked:
- more than 3 hours per day and after 7 pm on school days
- later than 9 p.m. on days between June 1 and Labor Day, when they can legally work until 9 p.m.
- more than 8 hours on a non-school day and more than 18 hours a week during a regular school week.
The Labor Department announced its findings on Wednesday. The ticket was first reported by NPR.
“Allowing young workers to work excessive hours can jeopardize their safety, well-being and education,” said John DuMont, director of the Pittsburgh Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour District, in a statement. “Employers who hire young workers must understand and comply with federal child labor laws or face costly consequences.”
John and Kathleen Santonastasso, the McDonald’s operators named in the investigation, issued this statement to Insider.
“We take our role as a local employer very seriously and regret any scheduling issues that may have occurred at our restaurants,” they jointly stated. “Our highest priority is always the safety and well-being of our employees, and we have since instituted a number of new and improved processes and procedures to ensure employees are on appropriate schedules.”
The research highlights a long-standing conundrum for the fast-food industry, which has relied for decades on teenagers with limited job availability to flip burgers. However, teens have been hard to hire in recent years, a shortage exacerbated by a general drop in food service workers since the pandemic.
On Friday, BLS data showed that restaurants were missing 400,000 jobs in November compared to February 2020.
mcdonald’s and king of burgers restaurant operators have advertised work for teens as young as 14. In September of last year, at the height of the restaurant’s hiring challenges, a McDonald’s in Medford, Oregon, put up a banner outside the store saying it was looking to hire 14- and 12-year-olds. 15 year old workers.
Oregon franchisee Heather Coleman told Insider last year that young workers are “a blessing in disguise” because they have the drive and understand the new technologies restaurants are implementing to adapt.
Like the Pennsylvania operator of McDonald’s, some chains have been accused of violating federal rules protecting teen workers.
In a statement sent to Insider, McDonald’s USA said its franchisees make local decisions for their businesses, including hiring. The chain said it expects operators to “uphold our values.”
“McDonald’s and our franchisees do not take lightly the great impact we can create, and therefore the deep obligation we have, when someone works at McDonald’s, particularly as their first job.”
In January 2020, Chipotle paid nearly $2 million to settle a 2016 Massachusetts case in which the fast-informal chain was accused of widespread child labor and wage violations.
Laws regulating the employment of minors vary by state.
The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) sets rules for minors based on different age groups. Teens ages 14 to 15 may work in restaurants and quick-service businesses outside of school hours, up to three hours on school days and up to 18 hours in a school week. They are limited to 40 hours in non-school weeks. The FLSA does not define hours once workers turn 16.
Mary Meisenzahl contributed to this report.