By Guy Page
Just two months after a Randolph McDonald’s agreed to pay $1.6 million in damages in response to a federal suit alleging sexual harrassment of teen employees, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced another more teen labor-related financial discipline against the store’s owners for teen labor violations.
According to a Sept. 12 U.S. Department of Labor press release, at nine McDonald’s franchise locations in Vermont and New Hampshire, Coughlin Inc. [owner of the Randolph store] allowed 142 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to work beyond the number of hours federal law permits.
Additionally, the company allowed 18 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to use deep-fat fryers not equipped with devices to automatically raise and lower the fry baskets and allowed four minors to use an oven to bake, DOL said. Two minors received burns while performing restricted work. The employer paid $109,125 in assessed civil money penalties for the violations.
The settlement of the $1.6 million suit filed against Coughlin, Inc. by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was announced June 30. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, employees at the Randolph, Vermont McDonald’s location were subjected to a hostile working environment by a male night shift manager, who touched them inappropriately, hit and groped their genitals, breasts and buttocks, and subjected them to sexually explicit derogatory comments and threats of physical harm. The employer also retaliated against at least one employee by revoking her disability-related reasonable accommodation and forcing her to quit after she complained, the EEOC charged.
Joining the EEOC as plaintiffs were the State of Vermont, and the Estate of Jennie Lumbra, who died in November 2021. $275,000 her estate was rewarded represents the income she would have earned if she had not been terminated and includes compensation for all damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.
Dunkin’ Donuts also was flagged for teen labor law violations.
At 12 Dunkin’ franchise locations, Vermont Donut Enterprises LLC and related LLCs allowed 44 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to work in excess of the federal hours restrictions, DOL said. The employers allowed 17 workers – ages 14- and 15-years-old – to operate high-speed ovens, with six minors receiving burns while performing prohibited baking duties.
One of the employers also allowed a 16-year-old worker to operate a motor vehicle to make trips between two locations. The employers paid $49,756 in assessed civil money penalties for the FLSA violations.
Following the division’s investigations, Coughlin Inc. and Vermont Donut Enterprises signed enhanced compliance agreements designed to reduce future child labor violations.
Vermont has yet to see legislation aimed at driving up hourly wages of fast food franchise workers, as California passed into law last week. A bill signed Sept. 5 by Gov. Gavin Newsom sets fast food restaurant minimum wage at $22/hour, compared to the state minimum wage of $15.50/hour.