Zaxby's Locations Violated Child Labor Laws, Feds Say

Two Zaxby's restaurants in  Georgia are under fire for allegedly violating child labor laws. According to a recent report by WSB-TV 2, these two franchises allowed 15-year-old employees to operate dangerous deep fryers without automatic controls. They also allowed the underage employees to work more hours than the state laws permit, federal investigators found.

The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the company Encore Foods, Inc., which operates two Zaxby's locations — one in Lilburn, Georgia and one in Grayson, Georgia. By state law, 15-year-old employees are only allowed to work up to 3 hours per day on school days and up to 8 hours on weekends or when school is not in session. They are also not supposed to operate deep fryers without automatic safety controls or other dangerous machinery. The investigators say that these two Zaxby's locations violated these and other restrictions.

"Endangering any worker is inexcusable, but minor-aged employees can be more vulnerable because of their inexperience. Employers, parents, workers and teachers must all be familiar with federal child labor laws to ensure the well-being of young workers," said Steven Salazar, wage and hour division district director for the labor department.

The department was already familiar with Encore Foods do to a dispute about overdue wages. The company had to pay $1,907 in back wages for 10 employees, and the labor department's investigation found that Encore did not pay non-discretionary bonuses in pay rates. This put significantly less money in struggling fast food workers' pockets.

Zaxby's has over 900 locations in 17 states, but its headquarters is in Athens, Georgia, where Encore Foods is located. Zaxby's itself owns and operates 120 restaurants while the rest are franchises. There are 190 Zaxby's locations in Georgia alone.

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Zaxby's issued a statement to local reporters as news of these child labor law disputes spread. It said: "At Zaxby's we care about the safety and well-being of all our employees. The situation at the Zaxby's locations owned and operated by Encore Foods, Inc. in Lilburn and Grayson, Georgia has been resolved, and measures have been put in place to ensure regulatory compliance and best practices going forward. We strive to help our youngest team members gain valuable work experience without risking their safety or interfering with their education."

So far, there has been no public statement from Encore Foods. It's unclear if those stores' operations have been impacted by this scandal.