Chuck E. Cheese, that famed birthday party venue "where a kid can be a kid," has allegedly been forcing some children to grow up a bit too fast.
The U.S. Department of Labor fined nine San Francisco-area Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants a total of $28,000 for allowing 16 young workers to operate on-site trash compactors in violation of the law, according to the Los Angeles Times. The eateries also allowed two minors to run a dough-mixing machine illegally.
The Fair Labor Standards Act sets the minimum wage for most non-agricultural work at age 14, but it does prohibit youth from working in manufacturing, mining or performing other "hazardous jobs."
But it appears the restaurants have learned their lesson. Officials at CEC Entertainment Inc., the Irving, Texas-based owner of Chuck E. Cheese's, are now telling teen workers not to operate the equipment and have put stickers on the machines warning minors not to use them, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Brenda Holloway, a spokeswoman for the company, told the Chronicle that there were some regulations that the CEC hadn't been aware of previously.
"As soon as we were made aware of that, we did correct the deficiencies and paid our fines," Holloway told the Chronicle. "We're walking the straight and narrow now."
The Labor Department has collected more than $650,000 in back pay and penalties from 271 south Florida restaurants for labor law violations including breaking child labor provisions, according to a press release.
A Connecticut family fought back in 2010 when the Labor Department accused them of violating child labor laws by allowing their children to work in the family pizzeria, according to ABC News.
The Chuck E. Cheese news comes as child labor regulations have been thrust back into the national spotlight thanks to Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Gingrich, a former House Speaker, has proposed putting poor children to work as janitors in their schools to help them learn a proper "work habit."
This isn't the first scandal at Chuck E. Cheese this year. A photo surfaced in July of what appeared to be a mascot pointing his middle finger at a camera while next to a child. In 2010, a Chuck E. Cheese manager was accused by female employees of sexist and derogatory comments.
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