The state Department of Labor & Industries has fined a Taco Bell franchise owner nearly $120,000 for repeated violations of teen worker laws over several years at a half-dozen Western Washington locations, including the restaurant at 710 Auburn Way S. in Auburn.
Earlier this week, L&I sent a letter to the California-based Taco Bell of America LLC, asking that representatives meet with the agency to discuss required changes in the company’s youth employment practices. The company owns 60 restaurants in the state.
“Teens are an important part of the workforce. We enforce these laws to prevent injuries and keep them safe on the job,” said David Johnson, manager of L&I’s Employment Standards Program.
In all, six investigations over three years, based on complaints from employees and parents, have culminated in fines totaling $119,450.
L&I issued one citation in March of this year against the Taco Bell on Auburn Way South and another in June against a restaurant in Marysville. Fines in these cases total $70,000. The company is appealing the Marysville citation.
At the Marysville location, L&I’s investigation covering January and February found 59 instances where 11 youth worked more than three hours without taking a rest break, nine minors worked more than four hours without a rest break on 20 occasions, and the restaurant failed to produce parent school authorization forms or proof of the workers’ ages. L&I found similar violations at the Auburn restaurant.
During the summer, many youth work at real jobs for the first time.
“Teens often don’t know their workplace rights, so it’s up to managers to follow the laws and emphasize safety on the job,” Johnson said.
In 2017, 680 youth, age 17 and under, reported injuries on the job in Washington.
In 2015 and 2016, L&I conducted other investigations of Taco Bell of America LLC locations. Those investigations resulted in the company paying $49,450 in fines. Violations were found at stores at 501 15th St. NE, Auburn; 182 Trosper Road SW, Tumwater; 1478 Dike Access Road, Woodland; and 21131 State Route 410 E., Bonney Lake.
L&I provided training for more than two dozen Taco Bell of America LLC restaurant managers and human resources staff members during those investigations.
It’s important to note these violations are connected specifically to Taco Bell of America LLC. There are other Taco Bell restaurants in Washington not connected to this company, or to the violations found.