McDonald’s to survey franchisees on child labor practices

Dive Brief:

  • McDonald’s will survey its 2,000-plus U.S. franchisees about their employment of children next year as part of its McDonald’s People Brand Standards process, the company confirmed to Restaurant Dive, HR Dive’s sister publication, after Bloomberg reported the chain was seeking stricter franchisee compliance with child labor laws.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor fined McDonald’s franchisees across five states for breaking child labor laws within the last year. Operators used workers as young as 10 years old without paying them, made children work longer hours than permitted under federal child labor guidelines and had them operate dangerous machinery.
  • McDonald’s said it takes labor violations seriously, but emphasized that it does not believe the violations documented in these cases are similar to the experiences of most minors employed by the brand and its franchisees. The survey is intended to to inform the trainings and resources McDonald’s provides to its franchisees.

Dive Insight:

McDonald’s did not comment on whether its efforts to ensure franchisee compliance with child labor laws, safety standards and hours procedures constituted the sort of “indirect” or “reserved” control over essential conditions of employment laid out in a National Labor Relations Board Joint Employer rule set to take effect in February. Barring congressional intervention, franchisors like McDonald’s will then be liable for some franchisee labor law violations if they meet several criteria laid out in the rule. 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, at least 10 states introduced or passed bills weakening the protections for working minors in the last two years, with several bills backed by regional restaurant associations. McDonald’s did not respond to a request for comment on its opinion of those bills.

McDonald’s most recent child labor infraction came to light last month. The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hours Division fined the operator of five Pennsylvania McDonald’s for making dozens of children aged 14 and 15 work for more hours than are allowed under federal law. 

The Wage and Hour division said that hours violations were the most common type of child labor abuses, but that it found more children working in hazardous conditions in FY 2022 than in any year since 2011. One of those cases included a 15-year-old worker who sustained hot oil burns while operating a fryer that was unsafe for minors to use while working for a McDonald’s franchisee.