Chick-fil-A fined over ‘volunteer’ program that paid people in meals, not cash

A Chick-fil-A in Hendersonville, North Carolina illegally paid some workers with meal stamps instead of wages and also violated child labor regulations by using teenagers for hazardous work, according to the US Department of Labor.

The DOL fined the franchisee $6,685 after an investigation found that some employees were asked to direct traffic and then paid in meal stamps instead of the minimum wage as required by law, the federal agency said Monday.

The agency also found that three teenagers under the age of 18 were operating, loading and unloading a garbage compactor, in violation of rules prohibiting minors from performing hazardous work.

“Child labor laws ensure that when young people work, the work does not jeopardize their health, well-being or educational opportunities,” Richard Blaylock, director of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division in Raleigh, said in a news release of North Carolina. In addition, employers are responsible for paying employees for all hours worked and payment must be in cash or legal tender.”

In addition to having to pay a fine, the franchisee faced backlash on social media over the summer for offering to pay for food instead of cash.

A now-deleted post on its Facebook page had the restaurant asking for “volunteers” for its drive-thru. “Earn five free entries per shift (1 hour) of work,” it read.

“Hey @ChickfilA can you explain why you allow a franchisee to hire unpaid positions? This is unacceptable,” one person tweeted.

“We’ve had a lot of people sign up and enjoy and have done so multiple times. The people signing up for this chose to do so voluntarily,” the store responded in the comments of its now-deleted post, according to an account published by Today .

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A’s corporate office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An employee who answered the phone at the Hendersonville Chick-fil-A told CBS MoneyWatch that staff had been instructed “not to comment.”

While many food service employees are offered free meals, it cannot replace monetary compensation. And a for-profit business cannot hire volunteers for work, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The violation is not the first by a Chick-fil-A franchisee.

Another Chick-fil-A in Tampa, Fla., paid $12,478 in penalties in August after the DOL found it had 17 workers, ages 14 and 15, working after 7 p.m. and more than three hours during school days. noted in its release on Monday.

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