Federal investigators found violations at 11 Crumbl Cookies locations.
Franchise owners at a Utah-based cookie company face fines of nearly $58,000 after federal investigators said they found several locations violated child labor laws.
At 11 Crumbl Cookies locations, which began in Logan, investigators found children as young as 14 working too many hours and in “hazardous or prohibited occupations” for minors, according to a U.S. Department of Labor statement Tuesday. That hazardous work, the statement said, included operating ovens and other “potentially hazardous” machinery.
“It is the responsibility of any employer who hires underage workers to understand and comply with child labor laws or face potentially costly consequences,” Betty Campbell, a federal administrator with the Payroll and Hours Division, said in a statement.
The infractions come as Crumbl, with his iconic pink boxes and fan-favorite milk chocolate chips, has been battling for top billing in Utah’s “Cookie Wars.” The company filed two lawsuits earlier this year alleging that two other, smaller companies in the state — Dirty Dough and Crave Cookies — violated their trademarks by copying Crumbl’s recipes, processes and packaging.
The heated sugar and spice battle has led Crumbl’s CEO Jason McGowan to publicly take to social media to accuse Dirty Dough of stealing information from Crumbl’s database through a former employee. Dirty Dough has denied the allegations and launched an advertising campaign with posters that read: “Cookies so good we’re getting sued!”
In a statement Tuesday in response to the child labor violations, Crumbl said it was “disappointed” to learn of the problems at its franchised locations and apologized to any employees who were injured.
“We are actively working to understand what has happened at these specific store locations and will take appropriate action to ensure all of our franchisees are in full compliance with the law,” the company said.
The US Department of Labor reported finding violations at Crumbl franchises in six states. 46 young workers were affected. A spokesman for the department said the fines are the responsibility of the franchisees, not the parent company.
Most of the breaches occurred in Utah, where Crumbl started in 2017 and continues to house its main operations center in Lindon. Four locations here – in Bountiful, Centerville, Layton and Ogden – have been listed for injuring 18 minors. The company has a total of 28 locations in the state.
The other violations were reported at three franchises in California, one in Minnesota, one in New Hampshire, one in Tennessee and one in Washington.
The Bountiful, Utah, and San Ramon, California locations each had the highest number of affected minors at both stores, with nine.
The total penalties imposed for the violations are $57,854, with fines varying by location depending on the severity of the issue.
According to investigators, Crumbl made children in particular work too many hours. Federal law says 14- and 15-year-olds can’t work more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours in a workweek — whether school is closed or not.
And they can’t work any day before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., except from June 1 to Labor Day, when students usually have summer vacation and working hours for marginal workers are extended to 9 p.m. Campbell said this is to ensure a child’s education is not compromised by work.
In addition, no one under the age of 18 may work in a position that is considered hazardous, which includes operating an oven. In a cookie shop, this largely limits minors to working with customers at the front desk or doing general janitorial work.
The company added in its Tuesday statement, “We apologize to all of our franchisee employees who may have been impacted by this situation and want to reassure the public that we are committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and safety at every Crumbl location to meet compliance standards. ”
Crumbl recently announced a partnership with the Utah Jazz, making it the official cookie for the basketball team. A Jazz spokesman declined to comment on whether the child labor violations would affect that.
Crumbl operates more than 600 locations in 47 states.
The company was also in an uproar two years ago, in December 2020, for hosting a large employee holiday party where no one was pictured wearing a mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic and tightened restrictions on gatherings.