[Watch prior coverage on Ohio’s child labor laws in the player above.]
AVON, Ohio (WJW) — A local restaurant has been fined for violating child labor laws.
According to a release by the U.S. Department of Labor, despite being warned in September 2021 that the hours worked by 14- and 15-year-old employees at its Slim Chickens franchise in Streetsboro violated federal law, the owner continued the illegal practices for several months at a second location in Avon.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found 15 minor employees at Slim Chickens franchise in Avon consistently worked hours that violated child labor provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a news release. Those hours were assigned by Ohio Slims LLC and the restaurants’ owner, David Giesen of Dover.
The division identified similar violations at the Streetsboro location in 2021.
The release states that investigators found more than 300 occasions in which 14- and 15-year-olds were allowed to work later than 7 p.m. during the school year or after 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
In another 150 instances, employees younger than 16 worked more than three hours on a school day. On some days, when school was out, the kids would work more than eight hours. They would also work more than 18 hours during a school week.
“The restaurants’ operator blamed the child labor violations on managers confused by differences in federal and state wage laws, but our investigators found the employer committed the same violations after being informed of their requirement to comply with federal law,” Wage and Hour District Director Matthew Utley is quoted in the release.
Slim Chickens was fined $15,504 in civil penalties.
“The employer has paid the penalties and agreed to comply with federal child labor laws immediately,” reads the release.
Giesen also operates Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers locations in Akron, Dover, North Canton and Zanesville, as well as other locations in Colorado, according to the release.
Slim Chickens issued a statement, which reads in part:
“Since these issues were resolved in 2021 by Slim Chickens franchisee, David Giesen of Ohio Slims LLC, Giesen has retained law firm Goodspeed & Merrill to perform monthly labor audits ongoing.
Giesen no longer hires employees under the age of 16 and has had no violations since the Avon and Streetsboro issues in 2021. There are no active investigations underway by the DOL or any other investigative body. All fines have been paid and the Avon and Streetsboro Slim Chickens locations operate in good standing with all labor boards.
Although the DOL press release references an update on February 15, there are no new violations or actions regarding the Slim Chickens locations. The DOL updates only pertain to recent updates to related labor laws in the release and in no way reflect any additional violations by the Streetsboro and Avon locations.”
Under Ohio law, 14- and 15-year-old employees may only work until 9 p.m. during school breaks that are at least five days long. Federal law, however, prohibits them from working after 7 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1, and until 9 p.m. thereafter. When statutes conflict, the Department of Labor requires stricter law to be followed.
An Ohio Senate bill under consideration late last year would have extended the cutoff for 14- and 15-year-old workers from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on school nights. It passed the Senate and was introduced in the House in December, but never received further consideration.
The legislation was re-introduced in the Senate late last month and is currently in committee. It would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work those longer hours any time during the year, so long as they have their parents’ approval. But the proposed state statute would not override the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibiting minors from working past 7 p.m., except during summer break and past 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2022 reported nearly 11% of the nation’s workforce is made up of workers ages 16 to 19. In the four years prior, the department found child labor violations in more than 4,000 cases, involving more than 13,000 child workers.