By Fred Thys/VTDigger
Nine McDonald’s locations in Vermont and New Hampshire and 12 Dunkin’ locations in Vermont have been fined for violations of federal law regulating child labor.
The McDonald’s franchise locations in Barre, Berlin, Rutland, Springfield, Middlebury, Randolph and Bennington, as well as one location in Claremont, New Hampshire, allowed 142 14- and 15-year-olds to work more than the number of hours allowed by federal law, an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department concluded.
In addition, the franchisee, Rutland-based Coughlin Inc, allowed 18 14- and 15-year-olds to use deep-fat fryers not equipped with devices to automatically lift and lower fryer baskets and allowed four minors to use an oven to bake. Two minors suffered burns while performing the work, investigators found.
Coughlin was assessed $109,125 in fines for the violations.
VTDigger was unable to reach the company’s owner, Charles Coughlin, for comment.
Coughlin settled sexual harassment charges with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in an unrelated investigation in June. The commission charged that Coughlin failed to protect an employee from a hostile work environment based on sex and from retaliation by a supervisor after she complained of discrimination.
At the 12 Dunkin’ franchises in Essex Junction, St. Albans, Swanton, Shelburne, Burlington, Williston, Morrisville and Milton, 44 14- and 15-year-olds worked more hours than legally permitted, a separate Labor Department investigation found.
Investigators also concluded that the franchisees, Essex Junction-based Vermont Donut Enterprises LLC and related limited-liability companies, allowed 17 14- and 15-year-olds to operate high-speed ovens. Six minors suffered burns while using the ovens, investigators concluded.
One of the employers was found to have allowed a 16-year-old to drive between locations. Federal law prohibits anyone under 17 from driving for work on public roads.
The Dunkin’ franchisees paid $49,756 in fines.
VTDigger was unable to reach Aristotle Souliotis, who is named as manager of several of the Vermont Donut Enterprises LLCs on the Vermont secretary of state’s website. Several news stories refer to him as the owner and he is listed on the Linkedin networking site as the company’s CEO.
Vermont Donut Enterprises and Coughlin signed agreements with the Labor Department promising to use color-coded name tags to identify workers under the age of 18, to train supervisors on workplace protections for minors, to supply minors with rules about what work they are not allowed to perform, and to spot-check time records to make sure minors are not working more than the law allows.
“As the labor market tightens, employers may look to younger workers to fill job vacancies,” said Steven McKinney, wage and hour district director at the Labor Department’s Northern New England office in Manchester, New Hampshire, in a press release. “However, there are limits on what jobs young workers can perform and how often they can work.”.