Franchise holders of a Utah-based cookie company are facing nearly $58,000 in fines after federal investigators say they found several locations were violating child labor laws.
At 11 locations of Crumbl Cookies, which started in Logan, investigators found children as young as 14 years old working too many hours and in “hazardous or prohibited occupations” for minors, according to a statement Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Labor. That hazardous work, the statement said, included operating ovens and other “potentially dangerous” machinery.
“It is the responsibility of every employer who hires minor workers to understand child labor laws, and comply with them or potentially face costly consequences,” said Betty Campbell, a federal administrator over the Wage and Hour Division, in a statement.
The violations come as Crumbl, with its iconic pink boxes and milk chocolate chip fan favorite, has been fighting for top billing in Utah’s “cookie wars.” The company launched two lawsuits earlier this year, claiming 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 heated battle full of sugar and spice has included Crumbl’s CEO, Jason McGowan, taking to social media to publicly accuse Dirty Dough of stealing information from Crumbl’s database through an ex-employee. Dirty Dough has denied the allegations and started an ad campaign with billboards declaring: “Cookies so good we’re being sued!”
In a statement Tuesday in response to the child labor violations, Crumbl said it is “disappointed” to learn about the issues at its franchised locations and apologized to any harmed employees.
“We are actively working to understand what has occurred at these specific store locations and will take appropriate action to ensure that all of our franchisees are fully compliant with the law,” the company said.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported finding violations at Crumbl franchises across six states. Among those, 46 teen workers were affected. A spokesperson for the department said the fines are the responsibility of the franchise holders, not the main corporation.
Most of the violations occurred in Utah, where Crumbl started in 2017 and continues to house its main operation center in Lindon. Four locations here — in Bountiful, Centerville, Layton and Ogden — were listed for harming 18 minors. The company has 28 locations total in the state.
The other violations were reported at three franchises in California, one in Minnesota, one in New Hampshire, one in Tennessee and one in Washington.
The Bountiful, Utah, and San Ramon, California, locations each had the highest number of minors affected, with nine at both stores.
The total penalties levied amount to $57,854 for the violations, with fines varying per location based on the severity of the problem.
Crumbl, according to investigators, primarily had children working too many hours. Federal law states that 14- and 15-year-olds cannot work more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours in a workweek — whether school is in session or not.
And they cannot work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. any day, except from June 1 to Labor Day, when students are typically on summer break and hours are extended to 9 p.m. for minor workers. Campbell said that is to ensure that a child’s education is not being impacted by the work.
Additionally, no one under the age of 18 can work in a position considered hazardous, which includes operating ovens. At a cookie shop, that largely limits minors to working at a front counter with customers or doing general janitorial work.
The company added in its statement Tuesday: “We apologize to any of our franchisees’ employees who may have been affected by this situation and want to assure the public that we are committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and compliance at every Crumbl location.”
Crumbl recently announced a partnership with the Utah Jazz, making it the official cookie for the basketball team. A Jazz spokesperson declined to comment on whether the child labor violations would affect that.
Crumbl operates more than 600 locations in 47 states.
The company also took heat two years ago, in December 2020, for hosting a large employee Christmas party where no one was pictured wearing a mask, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and with heightened restrictions for gatherings.