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A teen worker was burned while illegally using a deep fryer. McDonald's was fined more than $3,000

Firm fined $1.5M for illegally hiring children
Firm fined $1.5 million for illegally hiring children 00:19

A 15-year-old working at a McDonald's location in Morristown, Tennessee suffered hot oil burns while using a deep fryer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The incident occurred in June 2022, according to a department spokesperson. 

Investigators in the Wage and Hour Division learned that the McDonald's location allowed the teen to cook fries using a deep fryer and was burned while taking out the fries, according to a news release.  Such work is illegal, as it is deemed hazardous for young workers. 

Although 14- and 15-year-olds can be employed in food preparation in a limited capacity, according to department provisions, they are not allowed to use a deep fryer without an automatic basket — or bake. 

Faris Enterprises of TN LLC, operator of the location in question, was fined a $3,258 civil penalty for the child labor violation.

"We take our role as local employers seriously and we regret any errors that may have led to these citations," Faris Enterprises told CBS News in a statement. "The safety and well-being of our employees is, and has always been, a top priority for our organization." 

The same operator was fined $882 for deducting two workers' pay during overtime workweeks to account for uniforms and cash register shortages, violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Faris had committed similar violations in the past, according to the press release. 

The Department of Labor has issued a whopping total of $4,386,205 in penalties for 2022 — the most in nine years, according to agency data.  

"Since 2018, we have seen an alarming increase in federal child labor violations," Wage and Hour Division District Director Lisa Kelly said in a statement. "Unfortunately, our investigators are finding too many employers who are unaware of the law or chose to ignore it."

In a tight labor market, employers sometimes turn to minors to fill positions as they tend to be more docile and cheaper, Reid Maki, director of child labor advocacy for the National Consumers League and coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, which works to end abusive child labor told NPR.

Last month, a food-safety sanitation company was fined $1.5 million by the U.S. Department of Labor for employing more than 100 children — some as young as 13 — in dangerous jobs including cleaning "razor-sharp saws" with "caustic chemicals." In December 2022, a federal investigation found child labor violations at more than a dozen McDonald's locations in and around Pittsburgh when franchisee Santonastasso Enterprises allowed 14- and 15-year-olds to work outside of legal hours.

Even as labor regulators are cracking down on child labor violations, lawmakers in a number of states want to ease laws to allow more minors to work, in response to the tight labor market. A new law in Arkansas, passed earlier this month, made it easier for children under 16 to get hired. 

In Minnesota, a bill would allow 16- and 17- year olds to get work in the construction industry, while Iowa lawmakers are considering legislation that would permit 14- and 15-year-olds to work in freezers and meat coolers, which is currently prohibited.

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