McDonald's Franchisees Hit With Over $212,000 In Fines For Child Labor Violations

In a lot of varied, unflattering ways, 2022 and 2023 have emerged as the unwitting era of low-wage worker exploitation in the U.S. From the Starbucks unionization saga that necessitated Senate intervention to the exposé of ServSafe as a capitalist scam, it hasn't been looking great for food service employees lately. Even Eleven Madison Park – one of the most highly-revered fine dining establishments in the world – came under fire last summer for refusing to increase wages, citing bad press as an excuse to keep pay low.

Now, it gets even worse. ("Surprise," bad-news-accustomed contemporary populace.) McDonald's is getting busted for child labor violations. Specifically, three separate McDonald's franchisees (Bauer Food, Archways Richwood, and Bell Restaurant Group) which collectively own a total of 62 stores spanning four states (Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, and Kentucky) were guilty of child labor law infractions. At least 305 underage workers routinely exceeded their legally allotted hours and used machinery forbidden to their age bracket.

According to the McDonald's website, minimum age requirements vary between company-owned and independent franchisee-operated stores. But, 14 is the minimum age that the U.S. Department of Labor permits anyone to work outside of an agricultural occupation. In the most glaring incident, a Kentucky restaurant recruited the labor of two 10-year-old employees without pay and kept them working until 2:00 a.m. on multiple occasions. One of the children was allowed to operate the deep fryer.

2 underage workers were a night manager's children

According to regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor, underage workers are subjected to strict work limitations. People younger than 18 are not allowed to work longer than three-hour shifts on school nights and eight-hour shifts on weekends – all of which must occur between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. for 15-year-olds). No worker under 18 is permitted to operate dangerous kitchen equipment, like meat slicers, commercial mixers, or bread ovens. So, how could these things have been allowed to happen to more than 300 minors?

We won't speculate on whether the violations occurred in response to financial pressures like inflation or other factors. However, the two 10-year-olds working at the Kentucky McDonald's dropped by because they were a night manager's children, according to a statement by Bauer Food LLC to NBC News. The U.S. Department of Labor is charging McDonald's a total penalty fee of $212,544 for its infractions. This isn't the first time the fast food giant has gotten busted for unsavory child labor violations – or even the first time recently. In June 2022, another 15-year-old employee at a Tennessee McDonald's was burned while (unlawfully) operating the deep-fryer. According to a wage and labor official based in Louisville, it's unfortunately not rare for employers to run afoul of child labor regulations.