LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Federal Investigators found that several Nevada Sonic Drive-In locations had committed more than 170 violations of child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

According to a release, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the operators of six Reno-area Sonic Drive-Ins illegally allowed 14 and 15-year-old teenagers to work more hours than allowed and at times not permitted by federal child labor regulations.

Specifically, the division found that the owners of SDI of Neil LLC, which operates Sonic Drive-In, employed 14 and 15-year-olds illegally in the following ways:

  1. Before 7 a.m., later than 7 p.m. on days between Labor Day and June 1, and later than 9 p.m. on days between June 1 and Labor Day.
  2. More than 3 hours per day on school days, more than 18 hours a week in a school week, more than 8 hours on a non-school day, and more than 40 hours in a non-school week.

Investigators also learned that young workers were told to operate fryers without automatic fry baskets that move food in and out of hot oil and grease, which are prohibited jobs for workers under age 16.

The owners, Taylor Cain, Ian Cain, and Quinn Cain, paid $71,182 in civil money penalties. Additionally, the division recovered $274 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages for two young workers who were denied overtime pay for hours over 40 in a workweek.

Investigators also found that the employer had also hired a 13-year-old employee, which is under the legal age for employment in restaurants and other non-agricultural jobs.

“While learning new skills in the workforce is valuable as teens grow up, federal law dictates how employers must protect children by making sure their first jobs are safe and that they do not interfere with their education or well-being,” Wage and Hour Division District Director in Las Vegas Gene Ramos explained.

The division’s investigation of the Sonic Drive-In locations included two Reno locations, one in Sparks, one in Fallon, one in Minden, and one in Carson City.

“The Fair Labor Standards Act allows for developmental experiences but restricts the employment of young workers in certain jobs and provides for penalties when employers do not follow the law. We encourage employers, young workers, their parents, and other stakeholders to take advantage of our many online resources or to contact the division for additional guidance.”

From fiscal year 2018 to 2022, the department had identified child labor violations in more than 4,000 cases, finding more than 15,000 children employed in violation.

To help employers avoid child labor violations, the Wage and Hour Division published “Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers” in 2022.