McDonald’s franchisee accused of overworking more than 100 youth


An investigation by the Department of Labor has found child labor violations involving more than 100 youth at McDonald’s locations in the Pittsburgh area.

McDonald’s franchisee Santonastasso Enterprises violated US labor laws by allowing dozens of 14- and 15-year-olds to work outside of legal hours at 13 restaurants, the Labor Department said Monday. In one case, a minor was allowed to illegally operate a fryer without proper safety equipment.

The McDonald’s locations, employment investigators said, broke the law by allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to work more than three hours a day and after 7 p.m. on school days and after 9 p.m. in the summer. The agency also accused the company of illegally employing youth for more than eight hours on weekends and more than 18 hours a week during the school week.

“Allowing young workers to work excessive hours can jeopardize their safety, welfare and education,” said Labor Department official John DuMont. “Employers who hire young workers must understand and comply with federal child labor laws or face costly consequences.”

Santonastasso was fined $57,000 for child labor violations, according to the Labor Department.

In a Facebook video posted in 2021, franchisees John and Kathleen Santonastasso said they run a “people-first” business that offers a “fun” environment, flexibility, and the opportunity to earn money for college. On Friday, they said the company now has new procedures to avoid problems with schedules.

“We take our role as a local employer very seriously and regret any scheduling issues that may have arisen at our restaurants,” John and Kathleen Santonastasso said in a statement.

McDonald’s Corporation did not respond to a request for comment.

Dozens of youths illegally employed to clean meat plants, Labor Department says

The investigation follows a series of reports this year of the illegal use of child laborers in other industries, including meatpacking and auto parts manufacturing, amid nationwide labor shortages. Across the country, employers across the country have increasingly hired younger workers. The trend has been particularly noticeable in sectors that have lost large numbers of workers during the pandemic, such as restaurants.

Earlier this year, the Labor Department accused Alabama plants that make auto parts for Hyundai and Kia of illegally using child labor after Reuters reported that a Hyundai subsidiary near Montgomery employed young migrants as young as 12.

Another state investigation in November found that one of the nation’s largest food safety sanitation providers illegally employed dozens of youth at several JBS-owned meatpacking plants in the Midwest. Investigators found that 13- and 14-year-olds suffered severe chemical burns while working cemetery shifts with cleaning supplies.

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a set of child labor laws designed to protect the welfare and educational opportunities of minors and to prevent them from working in unsafe conditions.

Between 2017 and 2021, investigators found more than 4,000 child labor law violations involving more than 13,000 minors, the Labor Department said on Friday.

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