A McDonald's branch in Louisville, Kentucky has been plunged into controversy after it was discovered that two 10-year-old children were working in the restaurant, sometimes until two in the morning.
According to a news release issued by the US Department of Labor, the case came about after three franchisees of several McDonald's locations were found to have "employed 305 children to work more than the legally permitted hours and perform tasks prohibited by law for young workers."
The franchise operators, identified as Bauer Food LLC, Archways Richwood, and Bell Restaurant Group, manage a total of 62 McDonald’s locations across Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio.
Bauer Food LLC was found to have employed 24 minors under age 16 to work more than legally permitted hours while Archways Richwood allowed 242 minors between age 14 and 15 to work beyond the allowable hours. Bell Restaurant Group meanwhile employed 39 workers between 14 to 15 years old and had them work for more hours than the law permits.
The two 10-year-old workers at a Louisville McDonald’s restaurant were reportedly not even paid for their efforts. However, Bauer Foods LLC spoke with CNN and explained that the young workers were just visiting the restaurant because their parent was a night manager there.
They were also not approved by the franchisee organization management to be in that part of the restaurant.
But that still did not stop the US labor department from thinking that this was a cause of concern as these children had been put at risk from working "near dangerous cooking equipment."
"Too often, employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers. Under no circumstances should there ever be a 10-year-old child working in a fast-food kitchen around hot grills, ovens, and deep fryers," stressed Wage and Hour Division District Director Karen Garnett-Civils.
According to her, there has been an increase in federal child labor violations, which includes letting minors operate equipment and do work that puts them in harm's way.
"One child injured at work is one too many. Child labor laws exist to ensure that when young people work, the job does not jeopardize their health, well-being, or education," Garnett-Civils underscored.
According to federal child labor regulations in the state, minor-aged employees can work as long as their job is performed outside of school hours, is no more than three hours on a school day, and is no earlier than 7 a.m.. and no later than 7 p.m.
The three franchisees have now been charged with a combined $212,754 (P11.8 million) in civil money penalties for the violations.