The biggest child labor case in the history of the state of Massachusetts was settled on Monday. The offender had committed 13,253 violations of child labor laws and was ordered to pay a fine of nearly $1.4 million. And what is this horrible place for children? Why, Chipotle, the same taco and burrito chain that proudly offers mental health benefits, tuition reimbursements, GED classes, and paid sick leave to its employees.
The investigation began after a parent in Beverly, Massachusetts, complained that their child had been forced to work at a Chipotle past midnight. Further examination of Chipotle’s employment records discovered that between 2015 and 2019, dozens of 16- and 17-year-olds across the state had been scheduled to work more than nine hours per day and 48 hours per week.
Although Chipotle agreed to the terms of the settlement, which also included paying $500,000 to educate its employees about child labor, it didn’t actually admit to any wrongdoing. A spokeswoman said in a statement quoted by The New York Times that the chain was “committed to ensuring that our restaurants are in full compliance with all laws and regulations.”
Chipotle isn’t the only chain that has run into trouble with child labor. Qdoba, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King have also had to pay fines, the Times reports. Fast food chains have reported difficulty in attracting enough workers to fill out their weekly schedules: unemployment is down overall, so people have more options, and teenagers prefer other ways of earning money to standing behind a counter. (In other words, the days of the industrious teenagers who put themselves through college on a minimum-wage McDonald’s salary are long gone.) In addition, child labor laws vary from state to state, something corporate offices maybe don’t keep as close an eye on as they should.
Anyway, Chipotle has bowed its metaphorical head in shame and has vowed to do better.