(The Hill) – The Labor Department found two 10-year-olds among more than 300 minors working at numerous McDonald’s locations in four states. 

The department said in a Tuesday release that its Wage and Hour Division found the two 10-year-olds working at a location in Louisville, Ky. The division found that three franchisees — Bauer Food LLC, Archways Richwood LLC and Bell Restaurant Group I LLC — employed 305 children to work more hours than legally permitted and perform tasks that federal law prohibits. 

The children were found to be working in 62 locations operated by the three franchisees in Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio. The franchisees were fined more than $212,000 in total. 

“Too often, employers fail to follow the child labor laws that protect young workers,” said Karen Garnett-Civils, the Labor division’s district director in Louisville. “Under no circumstances should there ever be a 10-year-old child working in a fast-food kitchen around hot grills, ovens and deep fryers.” 

The division found that Bauer Food employed 24 minors under 16 years old to work more than legally allowed. This included the two 10-year-olds who were employed but not paid and worked as late as 2 a.m. 

One of the two was allowed to operate a deep fryer, which workers under 16 are prohibited from doing. Bauer was fined almost $40,000 for its violations. 

Bauer Food denied that that 10-year-olds were approved by its organization management to work for the restaurant. It said that they were the children of a night manager who were visiting their parent at work.

The franchisee said any work done was at the parent’s direction and in their presence without any management or leadership member authorizing it. It added that it has taken steps to ensure its policy on children visiting a parent or guardian at work is clear to all its employees.

The Labor Department release states that Archways Richwood let 242 minors between ages 14 and 15 work longer than legally permitted, causing a fine of more than $140,000. 

Bell Restaurant Group I allowed 39 minors between 14 and 15 to work more hours than legally allowed, and two were allowed to work during school hours. The franchisee was fined about $29,000 for the violations. 

“An employer who hires young workers must know the rules. An employer, parent or young worker with questions can contact us for help understanding their obligations and rights under the law,” Garnett-Civils said. 

Tiffanie Boyd, the senior vice president and chief people officer of McDonald’s USA, told The Hill in a statement that the reports are “unacceptable, deeply troubling and run afoul” of the expectations that the company has for its entire brand. She said the company is committed to ensuring franchisees have the resources they need to foster safe workplaces and comply with all labor laws.

“It is not lost on us the significant responsibility we carry to ensure a positive and safe experience for everyone under the Arches. I know how important it is that every restaurant fosters a culture of safety. As a mother whose teenage son proudly worked at our local McDonald’s, I feel this on a very personal level,” Boyd said.