Chick-fil-A pays workers with food, not money

A Chick-fil-A restaurant in North Carolina has been ordered to pay almost $7,000 after being found to have child employees operate dangerous machinery and pay teen employees with meal vouchers.

A recent investigation conducted by the The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) found that “Good Name 22:1 LLC of Hendersonville, N.C.,” the corporation responsible for a Chick-fil-A location, allowed three workers under the age of 18 to operate, load or unload a trash compactor. As certain machinery poses a significant threat to children, federal child labor laws prohibit minors from operating such equipment in their employment.

Moreover, the dangerous work was not the only violation committed by this particular restaurant. The DOL also found that the same employer paid certain employees – who were asked to direct traffic – to work for meal vouchers instead of wages. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, substituted meal vouchers for $235 constitutes a separate violation of minimum wage provisions. Furthermore, the employer will be required to refund back wages to the employees in addition to the civil penalties assessed.

Several Twitter users have shared screenshots of now-deleted Facebook posts by Hendersonville Chick-fil-A that may have prompted the investigation by the Department of Labor. “We are looking for volunteers for our new Drive Thru Express! Earn 5 free entrees per shift (1hr) worked. Message us for details,” a post reportedly stated.

Federal law prohibits the use of “volunteer” programs to obtain child labor and pay participants in food rather than wages.

“Protecting our youngest workers continues to be a top priority for the Wage and Hour Division,” said Richard Blaylock, District Director of the Wage and Hour Division in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Child labor laws ensure that when young people work, the work does not jeopardize their health, well-being or educational opportunities. In addition, employers are responsible to pay workers for all of the hours worked and the payment must be made in cash or legal tender.”

It is not the first time Chick-fil-A has been found to have violated federal child labor laws. In August 2022, a Tampa, Florida location was fined $12,478 by the Department of Labor after investigators discovered 17 of its minor workers were permitted to work past 7 p.m. on school days and for more than 3 hours.

In addition to the chicken chain, other fast food giants have also been found to exploit child labor.  A Pennsylvania McDonald’s was fined nearly $60,000 in December 2022 for violating wages-and-hours laws.

Chick-fil-A has been criticized in the past for its long-standing policy of donating to anti-LGBTIQ+ groups. Due to the company’s decisions, boycotts have been initiated across the country and the City of San Antonio has decided to remove the restaurant from a list of approved concessions at an airport in 2019. In response, Texas Democrats and Republicans sparred over the “Save Chick-fil-A bill.” The company changed its policy in 2020 when it announced future donations would be divided among organizations that promote youth education, fight youth homelessness, and combat hunger.