Kentucky McDonald's Franchisee Allegedly Employed 10-Year-Old Children: Department of Labor

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The franchisee wasn't alone in the allegations as other restaurant groups were accused of similar issues.

Investigators with the Department of Labor say a Kentucky McDonald’s franchisee employed two 10-year-old children, which is in direct violation of child labor laws, according to reports.

Bauer Food, LLC, a Louisville-based operator of 10 McDonald's franchise locations across two states, employed the children, CBS News reported.

The Department of Labor investigators alleged that children were not paid and sometimes worked as late as 2 a.m. and they "prepared and distributed food orders, cleaned the store, worked at the drive-thru window and operated a register." Investigators learned that "one of the two children was allowed to operate a deep fryer, a prohibited task for workers under 16 years old."

Bauer Food franchise owner Sean Bauer told CBS News that the children were visiting their parent, who works as a night manager. He said the kids were not approved to be in that part of restaurant by franchisee organization management and that any work the children did was at the direction of, and in the presence of, the parent. He added that the company has worked to make sure the policy regarding children visiting parents and guardians at work is clear to all employees.

Calls left by Inside Edition Digital to Bauer Foods, LLC, went unanswered.

Bauer Food LLC wasn’t the only restaurant group investigated.

The Department of Labor also investigated and alleged that Archways Richwood LLC and Bell Restaurant Group I LLC had minors working illegally.

The Department of Labor says in a press release obtained by Inside Edition Digital that in their investigation the three separate restaurant groups that operated a total of 62 McDonald’s locations across Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio had employed 305 children to work more than the legally permitted hours and perform tasks prohibited by law for young workers. In all, the investigations led to assessments of $212,544 in civil money penalties against the employers.

“Too often, employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers,” explained Wage and Hour Division district director Karen Garnett-Civils in Louisville, Kentucky. “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.”

The Department of Labor alleged that Archways Richwood LLC – a Walton-based operator of 27 McDonald’s locations – allowed 242 minors between age 14 and 15 to work beyond the allowable hours. Most worked earlier or later in the day than the law permits and more than three hours on school days. The division assessed the employer with $143,566 in civil money penalties for their violations.

Inside Edition Digital has reached out to Archways Richwood LLC for comment on this and has not heard back.

The Department of Labor also alleges that Bell Restaurant Group I LLC, found the employer allowed 39 workers – ages 14 and 15 – to work outside of and for more hours than the law permits. Some of these children worked more than the daily and weekly limits during school days and school weeks, and the employer allowed two of them to work during school hours. To address the child labor violations, the division assessed the employer $29,267 in civil money penalties.

Investigators also found the employer systemically failed to pay workers overtime wages they were due and as a result, the division recovered $14,730 in back wages and liquidated damages for 58 workers.

Bell Restaurant Group I LLC is a Louisville-based operator of four McDonald’s locations and part of Brdancat Management Inc., a larger enterprise that includes Jesse Bell I, Jesse Bell V and Bell Restaurant Group II, which operates an additional 20 locations in Maryland, Indiana and Kentucky, according to the Department of Labor.

Bell Restaurant Group I LLC responded to Inside Edition Digital after publication, saying, "The notion that we’re even mentioned in a press release with other unrelated independent businesses is absurd and an obvious attempt to garner attention grabbing headlines."

“We are seeing an increase in federal child labor violations, including allowing minors to operate equipment or handle types of work that endangers them or employs them for more hours or later in the day than federal law allows,” Garnett-Civils said in the Department of Labor press release. “An employer who hires young workers must know the rules. An employer, parent or young worker with questions can contact us for help understanding their obligations and rights under the law.”

“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 added.

Inside Edition Digital has reached out to McDonald's corporate offices for comment on these allegations and Tiffanie Boyd, Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer, McDonald’s USA, told Inside Edition Digital in a statement via email, “These reports are unacceptable, deeply troubling and run afoul of the high expectations we have for the entire McDonald’s brand. It is not lost on us the significant responsibility we carry to ensure a positive and safe experience for everyone under the Arches. I know how important it is that every restaurant fosters a culture of safety. As a mother whose teenage son proudly worked at our local McDonald’s, I feel this on a very personal level. We are committed to ensuring our franchisees have the resources they need to foster safe workplaces for all employees and maintain compliance with all labor laws.”

Boyd also added background from franchisee organization Bauer Food LLC, which she attributable to the franchisee and said, “The two 10-year-olds allegedly employed were children of a night manager who were visiting their parent at work and were not approved by franchisee organization management to be in that part of the restaurant.”

“Any ‘work’ was done at the direction of - and in the presence of - the parent without authorization by franchisee organization management or leadership,” Boyd added. “We have since taken steps to ensure our policy regarding children visiting a parent/guardian at work is clear to all employees.”

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