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McDonald’s franchisee accused of overworking more than 100 youths


A Department of Labor investigation has found child labor violations involving more than 100 youths at McDonald’s locations in the greater Pittsburgh area.

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

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

“Allowing young workers to work excessive hours can jeopardize their safety, well-being and education,” said John DuMont, a Labor Department official. “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 Department of Labor.

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

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

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

Dozens of youths illegally employed to clean meat plants, says labor department

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

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

Another federal investigation found in November that one of the nation’s largest food safety hygiene providers illegally employed dozens of youths at several JBS-owned meatpacking plants in the Midwest. Investigators found 13- and 14-year-olds suffered severe chemical burns while working with cleaning products on graveyard shifts.

The Fair Labor Standards Act includes a number of child labor laws enacted to protect minors’ well-being and educational opportunities, and to prevent them from working in hazardous conditions.

Between 2017 and 2021, investigators found violations of child labor laws in more than 4,000 cases, involving more than 13,000 minors, the labor ministry said Friday.

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