At least 16 McDonald's locations in Louisiana and Texas were caught violating child labor laws, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) found in a recent investigation. The latest findings point to an alarming trend of labor abuses in the U.S. that overwhelmingly target migrant children.
Several franchisees in Texas and Louisiana asked at least ten young employees to operate equipment which is prohibited or considered hazardous for minors, according to the DOL. Several employees aged 14 and 15 were asked to operate trash compactors and ovens.
Illegal Child Labor
All employees were asked to use manual deep fryers, which is highly dangerous for any worker, and may even lead to severe burns, hospitalization, or death. In May, the department reported that a 15-year-old McDonald's employee in Tennessee suffered hot oil burns from operating a manual deep fryer.
In both states, minors were asked to work long hours, even though regulations prohibit hours that could interfere with a child's education. The department's ongoing efforts to uncover child labor abuses has revealed alarming violations — 62 McDonald's Franchisees in Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio, were fined for illegally employing 305 minor employees, including two 10-year-olds in Kentucky.
“Any employer who hires young workers must know what work they are allowed to do and when they can and cannot work," said Lisa Kelly, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division District Director. "Unfortunately, our investigators are finding too many employers who are unaware of the law or chose to ignore it.”
In 2022, the DOL found that 3,876 minors in the U.S. were employed in violation of labor laws, including 688 in violation of hazardous occupation regulations, but there may be thousands more that aren't counted.
New York Times journalist Hannah Dreier estimated that 250,000 migrant children have made their way into the country to escape violence and poverty, the majority of them working full-time. Last year, Reuters reported that minors as young as 12 were illegally employed in Alabama plants that supply parts to Hyundai and Kia. And the DOL found more than 100 children illegally employed in meat processing.
“This is not a 19th century problem – this is a today problem," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. "We need Congress to come to the table, we need states to come to the table. This is a problem that will take all of us to stop.”