Famed fast-food chain closes restaurant and launches investigation after teenage employees made shocking claims
A popular national fast-food chain faces protests and legal action after a group of young employees filed complaints of exploitation.
Teenage workers at a Popeyes restaurant on International Boulevard in Oakland, California, say they have been forced to work long hours, even on school nights, and have been repeatedly harassed by management.
“Our employer has violated almost every law that was passed to protect young workers like us,” two teenage employees at the popular nationwide chain, 17-year-old Johmara Romero and 18-year-old Karla Palma Mendoza, said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Romero and Mendoza, along with other young employees, filed a complaint with the state labor commissioner and the Occupational Safety and Health Division, also known as Cal/OSHA.
A representative from the Department of Labor Relations acknowledged receipt of the complaint and called An investigation by Cal/OSHA was ongoing.
Romero and Mendoza, both high school students, said that during their employment they were regularly asked to work more than four hours a day and after 10 p.m. on school nights — both requirements not allowed under current child labor.
The complaint also included information about a 13-year-old employee who worked more than 40 hours a week on several occasions, as well as multiple allegations of harassment, including sexual harassment.
Sometimes they were denied regular breaks and were not compensated for overtime.
Another problem was fear for their safety in the workplace.
A video was provided with the complaint, showing a fight between an employee and a customer.
Shortly after the complaint was made public, Popeyes abruptly shut down the site.
“We will not condone labor law violations and if any of these allegations are true, we will take action against that franchisee,” a Popeyes representative said The Washington Post.
Within hours, a local activist group organized a Popeyes chain strike Fight for $15whose mission is to ensure fair working conditions and wages for workers in the country.
Dozens of workers gathered outside the closed site last Thursday and Friday.
The demonstrators shouted calls to action such as “Qué queremos? Lady Justice! Cuando? Ahora!” and held signs that read “Popeyes, stop exploiting child labor” in one Video posted on Twitter.
Popeyes officials have not commented further on the progress of their investigation.