Crumbl Cookies, a national chain of bakeries specializing in cookies, has been accused by the U.S. Department of Labor of violating child labor laws in at least six states by making them work longer than is legally permitted. They are also accused of making these underage workers, some as young as 14 and 15, perform job duties that are considered hazardous, in violation of federal law. The company, when asked about the accusations, responded that it was “disappointed” that a “small number” of its franchisees chose to violate labor laws in this way, and emphasized its commitment to a safe working environment for its employees.
What is Crumbl Cookies?
Crumbl Cookies is a chain of bakeries that operates across the United States, including in New York. It is estimated to have more than 300 franchises across 36 States, expanding rapidly after opening just five years ago. It is noteworthy for not only offering cookies in store, but also delivering its products to customers, which helped it to grow dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Are They Accused of Doing?
Six Crumbl Cookies locations have been accused of illegally forcing underage employees to work excessive hours in violation of federal law, as well as employing them to perform hazardous work that they cannot legally perform. Federal law requires workers below the age of 18 to refrain from any type of work that is considered hazardous, and restricts them to working no more than eight hours a day or 40 hours per week, while also limiting their work hours to between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM (or 9:00 PM during summer break).
Why is This Illegal?
Child labor laws, like the ones cited by the Department of Labor, are intended to protect underage workers who can easily be exploited by their employers. Due to their vulnerable status, underage workers (who, in this case, were sometimes as young as 14 or 15) are much easier to abuse, since they have less ability to seek justice for harm they suffer. In particular, the requirement that some underage workers perform hazardous duties can put them at heightened risk of severe injury, which could impact them for the rest of their lives.
What Could Happen Now?
The accused franchises, located in California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah and Washington, could all face substantial punishment for their violations, including up to $60,000 in fines. While these practices seem to currently be limited to these specific franchises, it is worth being careful in any business where underage workers are involved. The parent company has publicly denounced these business practices, but when underage workers are employed by a company, there is always a risk of running afoul of child labor laws.
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