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September 1, 2022

Footage of an alleged child wearing a uniform and carrying orders at a Culver’s restaurant has inflamed the internet.

“Didn’t know Culver’s hired middle schoolers,” Alex Martinich captioned his TikTok video on Thursday. The clip swiftly shot up to 4.5 million views.

In the video, what looks to be a young-looking girl wearing the chain’s apron and visor marched across a Culver’s restaurant floor. Reaching a counter, she grabbed two packages that looked like to-go orders and carried them off-screen.

“She looks like she’s 10 working at Culver’s,” Martinich said.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the minimum age for working in non-agricultural jobs is 14. Employed 14- and 15-year-olds must work within specific hours that cannot extend overnight or conflict with school hours, according to the law.

Martinich’s comments section abounded with theories seeking to explain the disconcerting video.

“My middle school kids worked there. If [there] is like a PTSA or school event they let kids volunteer to serve their school,” alleged one viewer.

“Parents probably own the place so she can work when she’s young,” ventured another user.

The FLSA specifies that “employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

However, an exemption to the law does apply to minors under 16 working in a business solely owned or operated by their parents or guardians, who can work any time of day for any number of hours. Parents are still prohibited from employing their child in manufacturing, mining or any other occupations deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.

Here, Mitt Romney orders food at a Culver’s restaurant in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012. Footage of an alleged child worker wearing a uniform and carrying orders at a Culver’s restaurant has inflamed the internet.
Justin Sullivan / Staff/Getty Images North America

A Culver’s spokesperson told Newsweek, “This specific TikTok features the daughter of the general manager who wanted to help out for fun by running food to a few tables and was not compensated for her work. We’ve been in touch with the owner-operator of the restaurant and have been assured this will not happen again.”

Fast food restaurants nationwide are regularly investigated by the Labor Department for violating child labor regulations.

A Chick-fil-A franchise in Tampa, Florida, paid over $12,000 in penalties this month for allowing middle schoolers to work outside of legally permitted hours, the Department said.

In February, investigators announced violations at Subway, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Burger King and Frodo’s Pizza locations across South Carolina. Restaurant operators were illegally employing minors at hours and in occupations that jeopardized their safety, the Department said.

In 2020, Wendy’s and Fazoli’s restaurants across nine states were found to have 14- and 15-year-olds working outside of business hours approved by the law, resulting in a six-figure fine. Chipotle was also ordered to pay $1.37 million that year for more than 13,000 child labor violations in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, last week, viral footage showed young children preparing orders behind a McDonald’s drive-thru in Louisville, Kentucky. Although the company clarified to Newsweek that the minors were not McDonald’s employees and rather the children of employees, the incident left customers perturbed.

Newsweek reached out to Martinich for comment.

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