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Michigan Popeyes cited for violating child labor laws due to teens working during school hours

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Michigan Popeyes cited for violating child labor laws due to teens working during school hours

A Popeyes restaurant in Troy, Michigan, has been cited after investigators determined the franchise violated child labor laws, the Department of Labor said.

An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that a total of 63 teens between ages 14 and 15 were employed during school hours, in violation of federal labor law. The offending employer must pay $48,251 in fines for the violations, according to a news release.  

“Far too often, we find teens working hours that are not allowed by the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Wage and Hour District Director Timolin Mitchell in Detroit. “Child labor laws were enacted nearly a century ago to protect children. Employers that hire teen labor must ensure they follow the law while allowing teens to earn valuable work experience.”

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A sign outside a Popeyes restaurant in Chicago on May 6, 2021. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

According to the Labor Department, teens employed at the Troy Popeyes worked more than 18 hours while school was in session and/or worked past 7 p.m. before June 1 and past 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.

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Federal law prohibits 14- and 15-year-old employees from working past 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and past 7 p.m. during the rest of the year. Teenage workers also may not work more than three hours on a school day, eight hours on a non-school day or more than 18 hours per week. 

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A protest outside of a Popeyes location in Oakland, Califonria

Fast-food workers protest at a closed Popeyes in Oakland, California, on May 18, 2023. The restaurant was shut down after child labor issues were reported. (Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via / Getty Images)

Popeyes’ parent company, Restaurant Brands International, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last May, a Popeyes restaurant in Oakland, California was shut down after teen workers, including one who was 13, alleged they were asked to work during school hours and past legal limits, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The Labor Department has recently sought to crack down on child labor law violations. In February 2023, the department formed an Interagency Task Force to Combat Child Labor Exploitation “to better align federal efforts to protect children from exploitative situations in the workplace,” the department said. 

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A Popeyes restaurant in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 30, 2019. (Eric Baradat/AFP via / Getty Images)

Federal data shows there was a 69% increase in children being employed illegally by U.S. companies between 2018-2022, according to the Labor Department. The problem has been exacerbated by an influx of migrant children from Latin America entering the U.S. illegally, a majority of whom are without parents or guardians.  

In fiscal year 2023, department investigators identified child labor violations in 955 cases and fined employers more than $8 million in penalties, the department said. 

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“We see every day the scourge of child labor in this country, and we have a legal and a moral obligation to take every step in our power to prevent it. Too often, companies look the other way and claim that their staffing agency, or their subcontractor or supplier is responsible. Everyone has a responsibility here,” Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said last year. 

“This is not a 19th-century problem – this is a today problem. 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.”

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