Federal investigators found violations at 11 Crumbl Cookies locations.
Franchisees of a Utah cookie company face nearly $58,000 in fines after federal investigators say they found several locations in violation of child labor laws.
At 11 Crumbl Cookies locations that started in Logan, investigators found children as young as 14 working long hours and in “hazardous or prohibited occupations” for minors, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a statement Tuesday. That dangerous work, the statement said, included operating furnaces and other “potentially dangerous” machinery.
“It is the responsibility of every employer who hires child workers to understand and comply with child labor laws or face costly consequences,” said Betty Campbell, federal administrator of the Wage and Hour Division.
The violations come as Crumbl, with its iconic pink boxes and milk chocolate chip fan favorite, competes for top billing in Utah’s “cookie wars.” Earlier this year, the company filed two lawsuits alleging that two other, smaller companies in the state, Dirty Dough and Crave Cookies, infringed on its trademarks by copying Crumbl’s recipes, processes and packaging.
The sugar-and-spice battle involves Crumbl CEO Jason McGowan publicly accusing Dirty Dough on social media of stealing information from Crumbl’s database through a former employee. Dirty Dough denied the allegations and launched a billboard campaign, declaring: “The cookies are so good they’re suing us!”
In a statement Tuesday in response to the child labor violations, Crumble said it was “disappointed” to learn of the problems at its licensed locations and apologized to the affected employees.
“We are actively working to understand what happened at these specific store locations and will take appropriate action to ensure all of our franchisees are in full compliance with the law,” the company said.
The US Department of Labor reported that it found violations of Crumbl franchises in six states. Among them, 46 teenage workers were affected. A spokesman for the department said the responsibility for the fines rested with the franchise owners, not the parent corporation.
Most of the breaches occurred in Utah, where Crumbl started in 2017 and maintains its main operations center in Lyndon. Four locations here, in Bountiful, Centerville, Layton and Ogden, were cited for harming 18 minors. The company has a total of 28 locations across the state.
The other violations were reported at three franchisees in California, one in Minnesota, one in New Hampshire, one in Tennessee and one in Washington.
The Bountiful, Utah, and San Ramon, Calif., locations each had the highest number of minors affected, with nine at both stores.
Violations total $57,854 in fines, with fines varying from location to location depending on the severity of the problem.
Crumble mostly had children working long hours, according to investigators. Federal law states that 14- and 15-year-olds cannot work more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours a week, whether or not school is in session.
And they can’t work before 7 or after 7 p.m. on any day, except June 1 through Labor Day, when students are usually on summer break and the hours for minor workers are extended to 9 p.m. Campbell said this is to ensure that the child’s education is not affected by the job.
In addition, no one under the age of 18 may work in a position considered hazardous, which includes the operation of furnaces. In a cookie shop that greatly restricts minors from working at the front counter with customers or doing general cabinet work.
The company added in a statement on Tuesday. “We apologize to any employees of our franchisees who may have been affected by this situation and want to reassure the public that we are committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and compliance at every Crumbl location. »
Crumble recently announced a partnership with the Utah Jazz, making it the official cookie of the basketball team. A Jazz spokesman declined to comment on whether child labor violations would affect it.
Crumbl operates more than 600 locations in 47 states.
The company also took heat two years ago, in December 2020, for throwing a large employee Christmas party where no one was pictured wearing a mask, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with tighter restrictions on gatherings.