GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) — Eight Sonic Drive-Ins in the Upstate violated child labor laws by allowing workers younger than 16 to work longer and later than what’s legally allowed.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Atticus Franchise Group LLC, which operates 60 Sonic Drive-In locations, including eight in South Carolina — employed 36 children, ages 14 and 15, to work illegally between March 2021 and October 2022 as follows:
- After 7 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1.
- Past 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
- More than 3 hours on a school day and more than 8 hours on a non-school day.
- More than 18 hours during a school week.
“Businesses that employ 14- and 15-year-olds must balance workplace experience with educational opportunities and be aware of the limits on these young workers’ job duties and hours,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jamie Benefiel in Columbia, South Carolina. “Child labor regulations ensure young workers can gain valuable work experience without interfering with their education or endangering their safety.”
An investigation by the Department of Labor unveiled eight Upstate Sonic Drive-Ins will face penalties, including:
- Clinton: 925 S. Broad Street, Clinton, SC 29615
- Gaffney: 1529 W. Floyd Baker Blvd, Gaffney, SC 29341
- Greenville: 954 N. Pleasantburg, Greenville, SC 29615
- Greenwood: 1427 Bypass 72 NE, Greenwood, SC 29649
- Greer: 119 S. Buncombe Road, Greer, SC 29650
- Laurens: 926 E. Main Street, Laurens, SC 29360
- Simpsonville: 12 Berry Blue Court, Simpsonville, SC 29680
- Woodruff: 1534 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607
“The real focus is in the 14- and 15-year-olds. That’s where there’s very limited hours where they can work outside of the school hours and it’s limited to 18 hours per week during the school year,” said attorney John Reckenbeil.
Upstate attorney John Reckenbeil has seen and represented people in similar cases.
“I’ve seen that happen before where they get called back into court and the judge has every reason to sanction that individual or the business owner,” he said.
If the fines are not paid, Reckenbeil said restaurant and business owners could get summoned to court and possibly face jail time.
“Each incident ends up in a fine,” said Reckenbeil. “So if you have done massive violations you will then be subjected to court punishment if you do it again or you don’t pay the fines.”
The Department of Labor said Atticus Franchise Group is facing a $25,000 civil money penalty to address the violations found in the Upstate locations.
Atticus Franchise Group is not the only company that is facing recent penalties from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The department found 3497 Beaufort Limited Partnership and its corporate parent company, Boom Inc. operates Sonic Drive-In locations in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — employed 55 children, ages 14 and 15, to work outside of legally allowed hours.
The department assessed 3497 Beaufort and Boom Inc. with a $36,012 civil money penalty to resolve its violations at five Sonic locations in Chapin, Columbia, Newberry and Sumter.
According to the Department of Labor, investigators said nearly 4,000 children nationwide were involved in child labor violations. Data showed it increased more than 60% from 2018.
Employers were fined over $4 million in civil money penalties to address the violations.
To file a complaint, the Department of Labor said to call 866-4US-WAGE (866-487-9243).
When applying for a job, keep in mind there are different restrictions per age group for your child.
For additional information on child labor requirements, visit:
- National- https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/youthrules
- South Carolina- https://llr.sc.gov/wage/cll.aspx