PORTSMOUTH — Downtown restaurant Toscana Italian Chophouse & Wine Bar has been cited for child labor violations, infractions which include employing a teenager younger than the federal minimum working age, per the U.S. Department of Labor.
Five 14-and 15-year-old employees were found to have worked “excessive hours” at Toscana. The business also employed a 13-year-old, one year younger than the federal minimum working age, according to the Department of Labor investigation.
Toscana, located inside the restored 1804 New Hampshire National Bank building on Pleasant Street, was ordered to pay $11,333 in civil penalties for the child labor violations, according to Steven McKinney, a Department of Labor official based in Manchester.
The Portsmouth restaurant falls under the umbrella of Tuscan Brands, an Italian artisan food hospitality company owned by Joe Faro. In addition to Toscana, the Tuscan Village and Tuscan Market locations in Salem and Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar in Newburyport, Massachusetts, all part Tuscan Brands, were investigated and found to have employed 11 workers ages 14 and 15 who were working excessive hours under federal law.
The four Faro-owned businesses paid a combined $15,737 in assessed civil penalties, the Department of Labor’s report states.
“We encourage employers to be proactive and to use best practice measures to ensure they protect young workers,” McKinney said in a prepared statement. “As the labor market tightens, employers may look to younger workers to fill job vacancies. However, there are limits on what jobs young workers can perform and how often they can work.”
Neither Faro nor a spokesperson for Tuscan Brands responded to requests for comment for this story.
Toscana, steps away from Faro-owned Tuscan Market at 14 Market Square, opened in December 2020.
A fact sheet from the Department of Labor notes its Wage and Hour Division does not typically disclose the reason for an investigation but that many begin after complaints are filed.
Investigations are usually geared toward low-wage industries “because of high rates of violations or egregious violations, the employment of vulnerable workers, or rapid changes in an industry such as growth or decline,” the department stated.
“All complaints are confidential; the name of the worker and the nature of the complaint are not disclosable; whether a complaint exists may not be disclosed,” the department fact sheet reads.
The findings against the four Tuscan Brand businesses included teenage employees working more hours in a school week than allowed and working longer hours than permitted on school days.
“Ensuring the safety of our youngest workers and bringing employers into compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s child labor restrictions are high priorities for the Wage and Hour Division,” McKinney said.
Similar violations at McDonald’s, Dunkin’ in NH and Vermont
The Department of Labor additionally noted numerous child labor violations by 21 McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts franchises throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.
Violations by 12 Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Vermont ranged from 44 workers ages 14-15 working excessive hours to some of them operating high-speed ovens and being burned while baking. Vermont Donut Enterprises LLC and related LLCs were required to pay $49,756 in civil penalties for the violations.
Nine McDonald’s franchises in New Hampshire and Vermont allowed 142 workers ages 14-15 to work excessive hours. The franchises also allowed 18 workers ages 14-15 “to use deep-fat fryers not equipped with devices to automatically raise and lower the fry baskets and allowed four minors to use an oven to bake,” according to the Department of Labor. Two minors were burned. Coughlin Inc., owner of the franchises, was ordered to pay $109,125 in civil penalties.
Child labor investigations by the Department of Labor have been on the rise nationally since 2015, the department stated. In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division found 2,819 minors were employed in violation of child labor laws, leading to them charging employers with close to $3.4 million worth of civil penalties.