WASHINGTON — Nearly a dozen cookie bakeries in six states were fined by the federal government because they allowed employees as young as 14 to work in hazardous conditions that violate U.S. child-labor laws.
According to a statement by the U.S. Department of Labor, the investigation into 11 Crumbl Cookies franchise locations found 46 minors who were working in unsafe conditions.
The Utah-based company is a fast-growing chain of bakeries specializing in cookies. Founded in 2017, Crumbl Cookies has expanded to more than 600 locations in 47 states.
The federal investigation found child labor violations at locations in California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah and Washington state. The violations ranged from allowing the young employees to work more than the law permits to having them doing jobs they aren't legally old enough for such as working ovens and other machinery.
“Employers must ensure that part-time employment does not jeopardize the safety or education of young workers,” said the Department of Labor's wage and hour division regional administrator, Betty Campbell, in a statement. “It is the responsibility of every employer who hires minor workers to understand child labor laws, and comply with them or potentially face costly consequences.”
Workers under 16 are not allowed to work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. They are also prohibited from working before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., except during summer when nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.
The locations with child labor violations were franchised by 11 different operating companies. The Department of Labor levied $57,854 in penalties against those operators to resolve the violations.
Crumbl Cookies is not the only recent case of child labor law violations the Department of Labor has found. According to the department, investigators uncovered more than 3,800 minors employed in violation of the law over 2022. They say that's a 37% increase over previous years.
The number of minors employed in hazardous jobs was also up 26%, with 688 minors found working in hazardous conditions in 2022.