Sonic Franchises Violated Child Labor Laws

More than 90 minors were allowed to work longer and later than permitted.

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – As part of its continuing effort to reverse a significant national increase in child labor violations by employers, the U.S. Department of Labor on Tuesday announced that a series of investigations of two Sonic Drive-In franchisees in South Carolina found 91 children under age 16 working longer and later than legally allowed by child labor provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that Atticus Franchise Group LLC — an Atlanta-based private equity firm that operates 60 Sonic Drive-In locations, including eight in South Carolina — employed 36 children, ages 14 and 15, to work illegally between March 2021 and October 2022 as follows:

  • After 7 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1.
  • Past 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
  • More than three hours on a school day and more than 8 hours on a non-school day.
  • More than 18 hours during a school week.

The department assessed Atticus Franchise Group with a $25,000 civil money penalty to address violations found at eight Sonic locations in Clinton, Gaffney, Greenville, Greenwood, Greer, Laurens and Simpsonville.

In addition, the division’s investigations found 3497 Beaufort Limited Partnership and its corporate parent company, Boom Inc. — a fast-food business enterprise that operates Sonic Drive-In locations in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — employed 55 children, ages 14 and 15, to work outside of legally allowed hours.

The department assessed 3497 Beaufort and Boom Inc. with a $36,012 civil money penalty to resolve its violations at five Sonic locations in Chapin, Columbia, Newberry and Sumter.

“Businesses that employ 14- and 15-year-olds must balance workplace experience with educational opportunities and be aware of the limits on these young workers’ job duties and hours,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jamie Benefiel in Columbia. “Child labor regulations ensure young workers can gain valuable work experience without interfering with their education or endangering their safety.”

In fiscal year 2022, the division found child labor violations involving 3,876 children nationwide, an increase of more than 60 percent since 2018. To address those violations, the division assessed employers over $4.3 million in civil money penalties.

Founded in 2015, Atticus Franchise Group LLC owns and operates Sonic Drive-In and Massage Envy franchise locations in 10 states. It has 60 Sonic Drive-In locations in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, and operates over 70 Massage Envy locations in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Utah.

Incorporated in 1992 and based in Columbia, Boom Inc. owns and operates an enterprise of 94 fast-food locations, including the Columbia location operated in joint partnership with 3497 Beaufort Limited Partnership.

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