Chipotle Restaurants in Massachusetts got struck by fines that after all the penalties are assessed are closer to $2 million than the official $1.3 million. Why? Child labor law violations.

These fines are from the state, not the federal government, because each has different rules regarding minor employment. What's perfectly legal in one state may be illegal across state borders. 

Chipotle labor violations include, according to the state:

  • Having under 18s working past midnight (14 and 15-year-olds can't work past 7:00 and 16 an 17-year-olds can't work past 10:00 on school nights)
  • Under 18s working more than 48 hours a week
  • Hiring minors without work permits

Some of these things may or not be permissible in your state, but you must follow the law in every state in which you operate.

This falls squarely on the heads of Chipotle managers

Employees, even adult employees, aren't expected to know and comply with all labor laws. For instance, it's not your job to demand overtime pay if you are non-exempt and work more than 40 hours in a week. It's your employer's job to pay it to you. 

It's not up to a 17-year-old to clock out no later than 9:59 pm. It's the manager's responsibility to make sure it happens. This can be difficult for managers--and can require some complicated scheduling or hiring more adults than teenagers. Some teens want to work more hours and are happy to keep their mouths shut. It doesn't change the law around it.

Managers need training on the law and how it differs between adults and minor employees. If your state requires work permits, employees those need those before the employee's first day at work.

Chipotle's response

Laurie Schalow, Chief Corporate Reputation Officer, Chipotle Mexican Grill, says, regarding these fines:

"We are committed to ensuring that our restaurants are in full compliance with all laws and regulations and we believe that in hiring workers beginning at age 16, we can provide younger employees with valuable experiences and provide a compelling work environment. As part of our settlement with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, we have agreed to donate $500,000 for the education and enforcement oversight related to child labor laws, for training and skills development of young workers, and to assist Massachusetts youth."

Jobs in high school are great for teenagers--and not just for the financial benefits. Learning how to work is a great thing. But, states developed rules to help protect younger employees and help them to stay in school. These rules also protect teenagers from unscrupulous managers. 

If you employ minors, double-check with your employment lawyer to ensure you're following all local laws. They differ, and not knowing isn't an excuse.