Reno-area Sonics employed 13-year-old, had unsafe work conditions, Department of Labor says

FILE - This Monday, March 9, 2015, file photo shows a sign for a Sonic Drive-In in Holmes, Pa....
FILE - This Monday, March 9, 2015, file photo shows a sign for a Sonic Drive-In in Holmes, Pa. Sonic says there's been some "unusual activity" on credit cards used at some of its drive-in restaurants. The chain said that it is working with third-party forensic experts and law enforcement officials on the incident. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)(Matt Rourke | AP)
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 11:03 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Federal investigators claim the operator of six fast food locations in the Reno area had unsafe work conditions, allowing teens under 16 to operate deep fryers and employing a 13-year-old.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) said SDI of Neil LLC, which operates six Sonic Drive-Ins in the Reno area, committed more than 170 child labor violations at its stores. The DOL said 14- and 15-year-olds were operating manual deep fryers with hot oil and grease, which is a prohibited job for workers under 16 years old. In one instance, the company hired an employee who was 13 years-old, which is under the legal age for someone to be employed in a restaurant or non-agricultural job.

“While learning new skills in the workforce is a 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,” said Gene Ramos with the Wage and Hour division of the DOL in Las Vegas. “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.”

As a result, SDI of Neil LLC had to pay $71,182 in civil penalties. DOL said it also recovered $274 in overtime pay for two young workers who were denied overtime. DOL said the company employed 14- and 15-year-olds illegally in these situations:

  • 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.
  • 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.

The following locations were part of the investigation:

  • 1856 E. College Parkway in Carson City
  • 2070 Reno Highway in Fallon
  • 1652 Highway 395 in Minden
  • 6250 S. Virginia St. in Reno
  • 1220 N. McCarran Blvd. in Reno
  • 4995 Galleria Parkway in Sparks