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Child labor violations discovered at several locations for food franchise

The operator was found to have employed 149 children under the age of 16 who worked longer than federal law permits.

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Department of Labor investigations into several Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger franchise locations in Alabama discovered child labor violations by the operator.

Mark Houghton, operator of the franchise, was found to have employed 149 children under the age of 16 that worked longer than federal child labor law permits. Specifically investigators with the Wage and Hour Division discovered the following violations by Houghton:

  • Children age 14 and 15 were employed to work more than three hours on a school day.
  • Employing 14 and 15 year olds to work after 7 p.m. between the day after Labor Day and May 31
  • Employing 14 and 15 year olds to work after 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
  • Allowing a 15 year old to operate a manual deep fryer without an automatic device to lower and raise the basket.

According to a child labor provision, “Fourteen- and 15-year-olds may perform only that cooking which involves the use of (1) electric or gas grilles that do not entail cooking over an open flame, and (2) deep fat fryers that are equipped with and utilize devices that automatically lower and raise the baskets into and out of the oil or grease.”

In total the violations were found at seven Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger locations and  Houghton was fined 119,029 in civil money penalties to resolve the issue.

Wage and Hour Division District Director Kenneth Stripling said jobs for young people can be beneficial but they should not endanger them.

“Positive and safe first work experiences can allow young people to develop skills, earn money and learn what it means to be part of the labor force, but a job should never endanger a child’s well-being,” Stripling said. “The Fair Labor Standards Act restricts the hours 14- and 15-year-olds can work and identifies dangerous jobs that are prohibited for workers under 18-years-old.”

The restaurants included were at these addresses; 301 Doug Baker Blvd in Birmingham, 3270 Mary Taylor Road in Birmingham, 2556 Helena Road in Helena, 5634 Grove Blvd. in Hoover, 2059 Highway 78 East in Jasper, 190 Vaughan Lane in  Pell City and 315 15th St. in Tuscaloosa

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Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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