Child-labor violations are giving restaurants an even darker black eye

Working Lunch: A few bad players are making the whole business look bad. And yet there's worse to come.

As if restaurants needed another reason to be slammed as employers, they’ve readily found one in their gross violations of federal child labor laws, as listeners to this week’s Working Lunch podcast will learn.

Co-hosts Joe Kefauver and Franklin Coley note that two McDonald’s franchisees in Kentucky managed to tar the whole industry last week when they were discovered to be employing workers as young as 10 years old.

“All it takes is one knucklehead,” remarks Kefauver. “This is an emerging reputational threat.”

Coley acknowledged that the federal rules governing teen employment can be tough to decipher, so “a well-intentioned operator could easily run afoul of these regulations.” But lapses like the ones discovered in Kentucky weren’t exactly minor slips, the pair agreed.

Indeed, they asserted that the industry’s hiring difficulties are fostering infractions that in no way could be called subtle. Kefauver said he believes the business’ reliance on franchising fosters violations because of the operators’ autonomy; the home office isn’t looking over their shoulders.

“The nature of our business makes us vulnerable,” he said. “Seems like every couple days, there’s another brand being accused of federal child labor regulations.”

The two, whose day jobs are co-managing the Align Public Strategies consultancy in Orlando, agreed that the industry can expect to see more enforcement as employers stretch ever farther afield in their recruitment efforts.

For the full discussion of how a high-profile violation in Kentucky bodes ill for restaurant operators everywhere, download the episode from wherever you get your podcasts.

You’ll also get an update on restaurant-relevant legislation that’s emerging at the state and local level.

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