Every day, millions of customers find themselves doing their shopping at a Kroger store. Shoppers flock to the grocer for a number of different reasons, from the friendly customer service to the wide selection of fresh and organic foods. But all of Kroger’s positive aspects don’t mean the store has always gotten everything right. In fact, Kroger is now under fire after an investigation revealed some concerning violations on the company’s part. Read on to find out what this popular grocer is facing backlash for.
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Kroger has found itself at the center of its fair share of controversy in recent months, resulting in two separate lawsuits. The first was filed in early March on behalf of the Ecological Alliance, an environmental nonprofit organization that claims Kroger has failed to warn shoppers of “the presence of chemicals, including lead” in several of its store brand items. The other lawsuit—filed in early April—involves the grocery chain’s cold and flu medications, with two consumers suing under the claim that Kroger is selling meds that are marked as “non-drowsy” but actually cause drowsiness.
The Kroger company is once again facing trouble. On May 17, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a notice announcing that one of the grocery chain’s stores had just been investigated by the agency in relation to the violation of federal child labor laws. According to the notice, DOL Wage and Hour Division investigators discovered that a Kroger store in Southaven, Mississippi, directed young employees to perform duties in ways that unlawfully “allowed minors to engage in hazardous work, [and] exceed hours standards.”
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Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), minors can start legally working in many service sectors once they turn 14 years old. But no employee under the age of 18 is allowed to work in any occupation or condition that is deemed to be hazardous which includes “operating many types of power-driven equipment,” per the DOL. Investigators found that the Southaven Kroger store allowed three workers aged 16 and 17 to “load a trash compactor with the keys in the machine to allow operation.”
The store also allowed a young employee to work in ways that violate hours standards. Under the FLSA, minors aged 14 and 15 are prohibited from working more than three hours on a school day, as well as barred from working more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session. But a 15-year-old employee at the Kroger in Southaven was found to be working outside of both these restrictions. “These provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health or well-being,” the DOL states on its website.
The Kroger company isn’t walking away with just a warning, however. According to the notice, the DOL has assessed a $13,678 civil penalty fine to “address the child labor violations” made by the Southaven store.
“Child labor laws are intended to ensure young workers obtain valuable work experience safely without interfering with their safety and education,” Audrey Hall, the Wage and Hour Division district director in Jackson, Mississippi, said in a statement. “Employers who hire minors must know the regulations that govern this practice. As the end of the school year fast approaches, employers should review child labor laws and contact the Wage and Hour Division if they have questions.”
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