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Published on September 05, 2023
Dunkin' Child Labor Violations Plague Dunkin' in Massachusetts, Similar Suits Sparked in Maryland, West VirginiaSource: Google Street View

Recent investigations have uncovered widespread child labor violations at Dunkin' franchises across the United States, spotlighting the issue of labor exploitation.

In Massachusetts, more than $500,000 in fines have been levied against Dunkin' franchisees for violating child employment protections, according to the state Attorney General's 2023 Labor Day Report. Among the cited violations were instances of 16- and 17-year-olds being required to work more than nine hours in a single day. In one instance, the Westford Group, Inc. agreed to a $145,000 settlement last fall to resolve numerous child labor violations at 14 of the company's 17 Dunkin' stores. Other notable penalties include over $222,000 levied against Courtney Donuts, LLC., and $150,000 against Somerset Donut Express, Inc. for similar violations.

Meanwhile, in Maryland and West Virginia, a federal investigation found that 19 minors were unlawfully employed by one franchisee in violation of child labor laws. Specifically, the minors were allowed to operate baking ovens and work outside of permissible hours. The franchisee, Nikkil Patel, paid a $41,181 fine and signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to prevent future violations at his eight locations in the three states.

Another case in Massachusetts resulted in a Dunkin' franchisee, Fernando Sardinha, paying $20,121 in civil money penalties to the U.S. Department of Labor for child labor violations. Sardinha allowed 21 underage workers, aged 14 and 15, to work excessive hours at his 12 Dunkin' locations in Bristol, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties. Furthermore, Sardinha permitted three of these employees to operate an oven, which is considered a hazardous occupation for minors.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division has published "Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers" to help companies avoid similar violations in the future. Last year, thousands of minors were found to be employed in violation of child labor laws, a concerning increase of 37% over the previous year. This surprising spike has led to increased efforts by authorities to crack down on labor law abusers.

In addition to child labor violations, other labor law violations such as wage theft, illegal worker misclassification, and workplace exploitation continue to plague the workforce. For example, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Labor Day Report highlighted the construction industry as a particular area of concern, with nearly 600 construction workers filing wage theft claims in the last year alone. The Attorney General's office assessed $1.2 million in restitution from these employers.