Wendy's Franchisee Fined For Over 760 Child Labor Law Violations

As government officials continue their crackdown on child labor violations across multiple industries, a Wendy's franchisee has recently landed in hot water for its child labor practices in Pennsylvania. This month, Wendy's operator GCWen Management was fined a total of $300,000 by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry after investigators discovered a whopping 766 child labor violations occurring across the company's 21 Wendy's locations in the state.

According to a press release from the agency, the franchisee racked up over 430 violations for failing to provide breaks to more than 80 child employees, as well as 208 violations involving excessive working hours for more than 30 minors. The restaurant operator was also fined for infractions like failing to properly communicate with the children's school districts after hiring them or terminating their employment, as well as failure to obtain appropriate work permits and parental authorizations for employees under 16 years of age.

This isn't the first time Wendy's has gotten into trouble for violating child labor laws. Back in 2020, the fast food chain was forced to fork over $400,000 in fines to the state of Massachusetts following an investigation launched by the Attorney General's office. The company was accused of over 2,000 labor violations involving teen workers across its 46 corporate-owned restaurants in the state. In response, Wendy's promised to launch a new scheduling system, along with a national audit and compliance program to ensure that proper child labor practices were being upheld going forward (via CBS News).

Disturbing data shows that child labor violations are increasing

Multiple fast food operators have been busted for violating child labor practices across the country over the past few years. In 2022, a slew of Subway, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Burger King, and Frodo's Pizza establishments were penalized in South Carolina for failing to comply with youth employment laws. Meanwhile, in 2023, three McDonald's franchisees were slapped with over $212,000 worth of fines for infractions involving more than 300 underage employees, some of whom were discovered to be unlawfully handling dangerous machinery.

In 2023, the United States Department of Labor claimed that there had been a 69% increase in cases of illegal child employment since 2018. In response to the disturbing trend, the department officially launched a multi-agency task force to aggressively crack down on the exploitation of minors in the workplace. By October of last year, the department reported that the number of minors found to be employed in illegal conditions jumped by nearly 50% since 2022, increasing from 3,876 individuals to 5,792.

Some factors contributing to this alarming uptick in child labor violations may include the lingering labor shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an influx of migrant children, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation seeking employment in the U.S. In a statement regarding the crackdowns, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said, "Every child in this country, regardless of their circumstance, deserves protection and care as we would expect for our own child."