|Possible child labor law violations investigated in
By DON DARE 6 News Reporter
LENOIR CITY (WATE) -- The state Department of Labor has sent an investigator to the Franklin Centre Zaxby's in Lenoir City to check on possible child labor law violations. Several teenagers tell 6 News they worked more consecutive hours at that Zaxby's than permitted by law, or they were assigned tasks they're legally too young to do.
The kids are 15 and 16-years-old.Child labor laws say the daily maximum is eight hours for employees ages 14 and 15 when school isn't in session. They may only work three hours a day on school days and no more than 18 hours a week during school. Jason Pranger worked at Zaxby's during the spring. "There was a couple of times I'd work doubles and get 30 minutes to eat and then go back to work after I'm done," he says. Three of Jason's friends tell 6 News they also worked long hours without breaks sometimes. Daniel Mills also worked at Zaxby's. Both he and Jason say they worked in the kitchen. "They put me back in the kitchen again. I asked to be a cashier. I'm only 15. It's a law. I'm not allowed to be around the kitchen," Daniel says.
In Nashville, Department of Labor investigator Michael Dattilo spoke with 6 News about child labor laws. Dattilo isn't investigating the Lenoir City Zaxby's. The state says a local investigator is checking possible violations there. Dattilo says there are jobs in restaurant kitchens that are considered hazardous and off-limits for minors, ages 14 and 15. "About the only thing a 14 or 15-year-old minor may perform in the kitchen is some cleanup. But they cannot perform any working duties," DDattilo explains. That includes no cooking, slicing or cutting up anything. But Daniel and Jason claim they performed kitchen duties not permitted by child labor laws. Jason says when he was 15 he did "prep work with knives cutting onions, lemons." And Daniel says, "I'm not supposed to cook. I'm not supposed to be around the fryers. I'm not supposed to be around any knives whatsoever." "Yet, you were?" 6 News asks. "Yes, sir," Daniel says.
Dattilo says the child labor laws are tough because "We want to ensure their safety and their well being." Park Mays, the owner of Zaxby's, tells 6 News his restaurant hasn't violated any child labor regulations and his manager has done "nothing out of line." Mays declined to speak on camera but says he's cooperating with the state.
The mothers of Jason Pranger and Daniel Mills are disappointed with the restaurant's management. "Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of the child labor laws at that time," says Jason's mother, Tina Shelton. She adds that if she had been, "They wouldn't have been working there." "I definitely think what we are doing now is the right thing. We are bringing it to everyone's attention so other children and their parents are aware of it," says Daniel's mother, Colleen Russell.
The state investigates child labor complaints based on
phone calls or emails. Time cards are one of the first things
investigators examine. Posters on child labor laws are required to be
set up inside restaurants where workers can see them. They're usually
found in break rooms. The state Division of Labor Standards enforces the
Child Labor Act, the Wage Regulations Act and the Prevailing Wage Act.
To contact the department, call (615)-532-1347.