Dairy Queen is a staple place in our town for late-night hangouts, family ice cream days and, of course, free ice cream on Halloween. However, would you still be inclined to enjoy their iconic blizzards and treats if you knew it was at the cost of exploited child labor laws?
Konstantine Menegatos is the franchise owner who operates four Dairy Queens consisting of Rutherford’s as well as neighboring towns: West Milford, Emerson, and Belmar. The US Department of Labor has ordered Menegatos to pay $14,006 in civil penalties on top of $9,764 in back wages (nearly $24,000) for the exploitation of child labor laws and regulations.
Part-time workers, some aged as young as 14-15 years old, were said to have been working past 9 p.m. during the summer and past 7 p.m. for the rest of the year when the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits such late hours.
The Fair Labor Standards Act enforces rules such as overtime rates and establishes minimum wage in order to protect minors from being overworked to such a degree that it would be “detrimental to their health or well-being.”
Despite this law and working overtime, some workers were not paid at the standard overtime rate and one worker was even paid less than the minimum wage.
Abby Moller, who works in our Rutheford location, says despite the fun work environment with her friends, “We are asked to work unreasonable hours, especially on the weekends. High school students can’t work until 11 p.m. on a school night. And there was one time that I needed to stay until almost 1 a.m.”
Now, it is questionable that some people want to go out for ice cream in the middle of the night. But, considering the success of the franchise as a whole, why would they need to cater to people until the early hours of the morning, at the cost of teenagers like Abby?
A series of text messages were shared originally on New Jersey 101.5 between one employee at the Belmar location and her boss, displaying cruelty and unfair treatment (even though she could not make her shift because she was headed to the ER). This led to her being fired. However, the screenshots of the messages have since been deleted from the web.
Perhaps it was for the better that this employee was fired to save herself from the exploitation of her service.
What can we do for these teens; how can we help? Is there even a way if they are working at the locations on their own accord? Their willingness to work does not justify exploitation. But, in the end, the minimum wage worker will always have to succumb to the superior operator.
Protections for Workers under age 18
If you are a minor and currently employed, check out a breakdown of the New Jersey State Child Labor Laws according to the NJ.gov website:
“New Jersey’s Child Labor Law protects you by limiting the number of hours you can work and the type of work you can do. Among other requirements, the law states:
- All minors working in NJ must have an employment certificate, also known as “working papers,” or a special permit (see below) for each job they work
- All minors must be given a 30-minute meal break after 6 continuous hours of work. Breaks less than 30 minutes do not count as an interruption of continuous work.
- Minors may not work more than 6 consecutive days in a week.
- Workers under 16 may not work more than 40 hours a week and 8 hours a day, with certain exceptions for agricultural work.
- During the school year, minors under 16 may only work outside of scheduled school hours.
- Workers 16 and up may work up to 50 hours in one week and up to 10 hours a day only between the last day of school and Labor Day.”