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Egregious Exploitation of Children in QSRs


The editorial on May 5th described the ongoing and apparently widespread problem of exploitation of minors in agriculture and the food and restaurant industries. In a recent release by the U. S. Department of Labor, franchisees of the McDonald’s Corporation were fined $212,000 as a civil penalty for violation of child labor laws.  The Bauer Food, Archways, Richwood and Bell Restaurant Group were substantial franchisees with more than 60 McDonald’s locations in four states.  According to an investigation by the Department of Labor, 305 minors worked more than the legally permitted hours and performed tasks that are disallowed for young workers.  In one case, two children aged 10 years were working at a Louisville, KY restaurant until 02H00.


Karen Garnett-Civils, Director of the Wage and Hour Division for the district, noted, “Too often employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers.”  She added, “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 question arises as to the complicity of McDonald’s Corporation.  Obviously, they cannot deny responsibility for the actions of their franchisees.  Since brand image is involved, management has an obligation to franchisees, workers and most importantly, shareholders to ensure that all operations are in compliance with federal, state and local laws and ordinances.


The situation is analogous to the revelations arising from the Poultry Sanitation Services Inc. case that involved exploitation of minors.  Packers including JBS and others simply abrogated responsibility by assigning cleaning operations to a contractor.  They should have been responsible for monitoring that contractors complied with laws. In the event JBS cancelled contracts with PSSI and has established an in-house cleaning subsidiary to service poultry and meat plants in accordance with relevant laws governing labor rates, eligibility for employment and FSIS compliance.