November 27, 2022

Volume XII, Number 331

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Sonic Franchise Operator Fined Nearly $42K After Federal Investigation Finds Teens Allowed to Work Beyond Legal Limits at Three Wichita-Area Locations

NEWTON, KS – For many teens, working at a fast-food restaurant is a first job. For 50 teens – ages 14 and 15 – working at three Sonic drive-in locations near Wichita – that meant being employed in excess of the number of hours allowed by child labor laws and during nighttime hours not permitted by law, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation has found. 

The department’s Wage and Hour Division found BBR Investments LLC based in Newton, owner of 17 Sonic locations in Kansas, permitted minors at the three of its restaurants to consistently work more than 3 hours on a school day, more than 18 hours in a school week, and more than 8 hours on a non-school day. The employer also allowed them to work later than 7 p.m. during the school year, and later than 9 p.m. from June 1st through Labor Day. All of these employment practices violate child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The division assessed $41,998 in civil money penalties for violations at the drive-in locations in Newton, Hutchinson, and McPherson.

“Federal child labor laws allow for youth employment but specify when and how long these young people can work, and what hazardous occupations must be avoided so their safety and well-being are never compromised,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Reed Trone in Kansas City, Missouri. “BBR Investments could have avoided costly penalties by making sure they followed the law.”

The division found violations at the following Sonic locations:

Address

City

# of minors

Penalties

215 N. Main St.

Newton

34

$24,956

621 E. 4th St.

Hutchinson

6

$9,702

10 E. Kansas Ave.

McPherson

10

$7,340

The FLSA prohibits 14- and 15-year-old employees from working later than 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and past 7 p.m., the remainder of the year. Additionally, they cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, 8 hours on a non-school day or more than 18 hours per week. The law also prohibits minors from operating motor vehicles, forklifts and using other hazardous equipment.

In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that young workers between 16 and 19 years old comprised nearly 12 percent of the nation’s workforce. As businesses fill job openings with minors new to the workforce, it is essential that employers understand and comply with child labor rules. 

To assist employers in avoiding violations, and inform young workers and their parents, the division has published its “Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers.”

For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.

Download the agency’s new Timesheet App Timesheet App for Android and iOS devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

© Copyright 2022 U.S. Department of LaborNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 277
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About this Author

The Department of Labor (DOL) fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements. In carrying out this mission, the Department administers a variety of Federal labor laws including those that guarantee workers’ rights to safe and...

866-487-2365
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