L & I fines Taco Bell franchise owner nearly $120,000

A Taco Bell franchise owner may have to pay nearly $120,000 after being fined for repeated teen worker law violations at a half-dozen Western Washington restaurants.

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries said employee and parent complaints prompted the fines after six investigations were conducted over three years.

L & I officials reported that numerous violations were found at restaurants located in Marysville, Auburn, and other locations.

An investigation spanning January and February found 11 teens worked more than three hours without taking a break 59 times, and nine others worked more than four hours without a break on other occasions, L & I officials said.

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The restaurant located in Marysville, along with an Auburn location, also reportedly failed to come up with parent-school authorization forms or show proof of age for the teen workers, officials said.

A citation totaling $70,000 was issued against both restaurants back in June, but the fine against the Marysville location is being appealed, L & I officials said.

"Teens are an important part of the workforce. We enforce these laws to prevent injuries and keep them safe on the job," said David Johnson, L& I Employment Standards Program manager.

Back in 2015 and 2016, L & I officials said investigations of Taco Bell of America LLC locations resulted in violations at stores in Auburn, Tumwater, Woodland and Bonney Lake, and the company wound up paying fines totaling $49,450.

Training was provided to Taco Bell of America LLC restaurant managers and human resource staff during those investigations, L & I officials said.

"Teens often don't know their workplace rights, so it's up to managers to follow the laws and emphasize safety on the job," Johnson said.

L & I officials said they have requested a meeting with Taco Bell of America LLC to discuss changes in the company’s youth employment practices.

It owns some 60 restaurants in Washington state.