SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) — Child labor law violations at a Bojangles restaurant in Spartanburg have led to a partnership between the franchisee and the US Department of Labor to make “sweeping changes” to improve working conditions for minors working there — and at the company’s 93 other locations in six states.

The department of labor is promoting the partnership as a way of encouraging other franchisees to work with the regulatory agency.

An investigation by the department of labor determined that Bocountry, registered under the business name BJ of WNC LLC, permitted 16 minors to work during school hours at the company’s location at 1800 Ashville Highway in Spartanburg, according to a press release from the department.

The company was fined $11,744 by the department for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the press release.

WSPA reached out to Bocountry CEO Jeff Rigsby, who has not yet responded to the incident.

The department of labor is working with the company to begin an “enterprise-wide” review of the franchisee’s 93 Bojangles restaurants in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennesee.

“Once this Bojangles franchise operator learned of violations in Spartanburg, they took action to ensure the young workers they employ in six states gain valuable workplace experience without compromising education or safety,” Juan Coria, an administrator for the department of labor, said in a press release. “This is an example of how enforcement and compliance assistance can work hand-in-hand, and it serves as a roadmap for other employers to follow to avoid costly violations.” 

According to the press release, the department of labor is helping the franchisee:

  • Re-train all managers involved in hiring practices on legal working times and permissible jobs for minors, and ensure they understand terms associated with child labor laws.
  • Add additional training for current and new employees outlining federal guidelines for the employment of minors.
  • Display the child labor poster at all locations.
  • Identify when 14- or 15-year-old workers clock in and out to ensure working times are in compliance with child labor requirements.
  • Maintain documents that prove birth dates for all minors within the enterprise.
  • Distribute pamphlets outlining child labor regulations to parents of underage workers.

Founded in 1977 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bojangles Inc. is a restaurant operator and franchisor with approximately 760 restaurants in 14 states. 

In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the department found child labor violations in more than 190 food service employers it investigated, resulting in more than $1 million in fines.

“Employers who fail to ensure workers are safe and paid their full wages and benefits will find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the people they need to be successful,” Coria said in the press release. “Employers who abide by the law will have a competitive advantage over those who do not.”