- 13 McDonald’s restaurants in Pennsylvania violated child labor laws, according to a federal probe.
- The franchisee is paying a $57,332 fine and says it’s taking steps “to ensure employees are scheduled appropriately.”
- The probe underscores the challenges of relying on teen workers.
A McDonald’s franchisee in Pennsylvania is paying a nearly $60,000 fine after a federal probe found that the fast-food operator committed child labor violations involving 101 minors at 13 McDonald’s locations.
The franchisee, Santonastasso Enterprises LLC, was accused of assigning shifts to 14- and 15-year-old workers that violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the US Department of Labor, shift violations included teens working:
- more than 3 hours per day and after 7 p.m. on school days
- later than 9 p.m. on days between June 1 and Labor Day, when they may 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.
“Permitting young workers to work excessive hours can jeopardize their safety, well-being, and education,” John DuMont, director of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour District in Pittsburgh, said 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 probe, released this statement to Insider.
“We take our role as a local employer very seriously and we regret any scheduling issues that may have occurred at our restaurants,” they jointly stated. “Our biggest priority is always the safety and well-being of our employees and we have since instituted a series of new and enhanced processes and procedures to ensure employees are scheduled appropriately.”
The probe underscores a long-standing conundrum for the fast-food industry, which has relied for decades on teenagers – with limited work availability – to flip burgers. But, teens have been hard to hire in recent years – a shortage exacerbated by an overall drop in foodservice workers since the pandemic.
McDonald’s and Burger King restaurant operators have advertised work to teens as young as 14. In September of last year, at the peak of the hiring challenges for restaurants, a McDonald’s in Medford, Oregon, posted a banner outside the store stating it was seeking to hire 14- and 15-year-old workers.
The Oregon franchisee, Heather Coleman, told Insider last year that young workers are “a blessing in disguise” because they have the drive and understand new technologies restaurants are deploying to adapt.
Like the Pennsylvania McDonald’s operator, some chains have been accused of breaking 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 outsized impact we can deliver – and therefore the profound obligation we carry – when someone works at a McDonald’s, particularly as their first job.”
In January 2020, Chipotle paid nearly $2 million to settle a 2016 Massachusetts case where the fast-casual 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 14 to 15 years old can work in restaurants and quick-service businesses during non-school hours, up to three hours on school days, and up to 18 hours on a school week. They are limited to 40 hours on non-school weeks. The FLSA doesn’t define hours once workers hit age 16.
Mary Meisenzahl contributed to this report.