McDonald’s now resorting to child labor to resolve “staffing issues”
By Mary Villareal // Sep 05, 2021

A McDonald's in Oregon was seen displaying a banner asking 14- and 15-year-olds to apply for work due to "staffing issues."


The store's operator, Heather Coleman, explained that raising the minimum wage didn't attract new applicants; however, lowering the hiring age to 14 brought in about 25 new applicants in two weeks. She stated that while there have always been staffing issues in the restaurant industry, "this is unheard of."

She also said that adding younger employees has been a blessing in disguise, as they have the drive and work ethic. They also know the technology, so they catch on faster.

The company declined to comment about the move but said that franchises were using a range of measures to tackle staff shortages, such as better pay, sign-on bonuses, and new benefits. It also recently announced that it will raise its hourly wages to $15 per hour at company-owned restaurants in the U.S.

McDonald's is not the only fast-food chain that's hiring young teens.

The Texas chicken chain, Layne's Chicken Fingers, is even promoting teenagers into management positions and reportedly paying them salaries of around $50,000 annually.

CEO Garrett Reed said that the biggest challenge for small companies to grow is the labor force. While his restaurants have pending deals to lease locations in the Dallas area, he is holding off on signing the because he may not be able to attract the number of workers necessary. They are so thin when it comes to leadership positions that they can't stretch out to open more locations. However, they have good 16- to 17-year-old workers who, in another year or two, could be seasoned enough to run stores.

A Burger King in Ohio also posted a sign that they are looking to hire 14- or 15-year-olds. (Related: Big Tech companies, electric car manufacturers profiting off child labor in Congo.)

Child labor laws in the US vary per state

While child labor laws vary from state to state, Oregon allows children from 14 years to work in non-hazardous jobs such as food service as long as their hours are limited. They should still be able to accommodate their schooling and get adequate rest.

The Department of Labor is the only federal agency that monitors child labor and enforces child labor laws. The most sweeping law that restricts the employment and abuse of child workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which contains provisions that protect the educational opportunities of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health, safety and schooling.

For 14- and 15-year-old employees in various jobs, they are allowed 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week when school is not in session, but they are allowed only 3 hours per day or 18 hours per week when school is in session.

Underage workers are not allowed to operate certain dangerous equipment as well. This includes riding in the back of trucks and operating chainsaws. They are also not allowed to work in manufacturing and construction, and they can't assist with or operate power-driven machinery. Lifeguarding in lakes, rivers, oceans, and other natural environments are likewise prohibited.

Other hazardous jobs include using ladders and scaffolding, cooking, baking, loading goods off or onto trucks, building maintenance, and warehouse work, unless it involves only clerical duties.

When it comes to their work hours, children ages 14 and 15 are also not permitted to work before 7:00 AM or after 7:00 PM after labor day and before June 1, while they can work until 9:00 PM in the summer months. Exceptions are made for special work experience programs, and minors who work for non-hazardous family businesses.

Read more about the challenges businesses face during the pandemic and recession at

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