ORLANDO, Fla. - Several major corporations in Central Florida were fined for breaking child labor laws, according to reports released to Local 6 by Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulations.
[WEB EXTRA: Reporting Child Labor Laws]
State law requires minors get a 30-minute, uninterrupted break during a four-hour shift. The Hollister store at Orlando's Florida Mall was fined $1,200 after an investigation by the state found that minor teens did not get that required break on 127 occasions. Other violations included working a teen past 11 p.m. on a school night and minor teens being scheduled to work during school hours, according to the investigative report.
Harmony High School senior Alexander Britton worked at Hollister during the state's investigation.
"It definitely gets kind of crazy between having football workouts and practices, even over the summer, and working at Hollister," Britton said.
And while he never felt mistreated by Hollister, Britton admitted balancing school while working there was tough.
"Sometimes you are pressured, asked to stay longer than you originally planned to, maybe extra hours," Britton said.
Orlando attorney Alex Felce says the state's child labor laws are very important.
"Ultimately, it's your children's health that's at stake and their well being and their ability to do well in school," Felce said.
He wasn't surprised when we told him how the state found violations.
"It doesn't surprise me that much, because ultimately, when we talk about a law and common practice, those are often not in line with each other," Felce said.
Local fast food restaurants also got in trouble, including the Panera Bread on Sand Lake Rd. that was fined $750 for violations including not giving minor teens required breaks.
In Central Florida, three Steak N Shake stores have been cited by the state for violating child labor laws in the past three years.
Lauren Hoffmeyer worked at the Steak N Shake on South Semoran Blvd. and says she didn't get her breaks.
"I would remind them, and be like, hey it's almost the fourth hour, I need to go on break, and they'd be like, just keep doing what you're doing," Hoffmeyer said.
The Steak N Shake on Orange Blossom Trail was by far the worst. According to the state's investigative report, the store employed six minors at the time of the audit, and all six minors' rights had been violated. Again, violations included failing to provide full breaks and working minor teens after 11 p.m. and during school hours.
After the state gave Steak N Shake time to correct the violations, many continued. The company was fined $1,500.
So what can parents do to fight back?
"What's really going to make sure that the law is being followed is making sure parents, children and other people who know of these violations actually report them," Felce said. "Because unless they're being enforced, then it doesn't really matter what the law says."
Alex's mom believes talking with teens about their work day can help uncover violations to report, and keep teens on track.
"The advice I would give is communicate," Lydia Britton said. "Sit down with them and set terms. Set the terms, be realistic, set the priorities - straight. What are the priorities? What can be done first before work can happen?"
Local 6 reached out to all the companies cited by the state and asked them to give their side of the story. Panera and Steak N Shake didn't want to comment. Hollister never called us back.
Parents can report violations of Florida's child labor laws by calling DBPR at 850-487-1395 or submitting a complaint online at www.myfloridalicense.com.
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