Huffington Post • Dave Jamieson

  • Managers at a Hardee’s restaurant in Alabama scrubbed workers’ hours from the logbooks in order to avoid paying them overtime.
  • Hardee’s workers in Pennsylvania were required to pay 10 cents per hour for the privilege of wearing a Hardee’s uniform.
  • Workers at a Georgia Hardee’s were told to clock out and sit in the parking lot when business slowed down. When it picked up again, they were told to clock back in and work.
  • Managers at a Hardee’s in Missouri had money deducted from their paychecks whenever the cash register came up short.
  • Adult workers at a Hardee’s restaurant in Iowa were paid a “sub-minimum wage” that was legal only for minors, while minors worked so late that their hours broke child labor law.

In each of those cases, Labor Department investigators found that Hardee’s restaurants had violated federal wage-and-hour regulations and workers were entitled to thousands of dollars in backpay. Throughout this time, the Hardee’s brand has been overseen by Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next labor secretary.

If he is confirmed by the Senate, Puzder would be responsible for enforcing the same worker protections that his company and its franchisees were caught violating, sometimes repeatedly.

Puzder’s nomination to head the Labor Department has galvanized Democrats and workplace watchdogs, who say his record at Hardee’s and his past statements about workers should disqualify him from the job.

Conservatives and business groups have rallied to his defense. They argue that any Hardee’s violations need to be put in context. There were roughly 2,000 Hardee’s locations as of 2012, and the restaurants highlighted in this story represent a small fraction of them.

The types of wage violations committed by these Hardee’s restaurants are endemic to the fast-food industry at large. All the big chains operate on a similar business model, and their franchisees run afoul of the same laws.

Wage theft is so prevalent in the fast-food industry that the Labor Department developed a targeted enforcement program to crack down on that one sector. During the 2016 fiscal year alone, the Labor Department found violations in 86 percent of fast-food cases investigated, with 10,300 workers owed more than $5.4 million, according to a department spokesman. President Barack Obama’s labor officials attributed the industry’s problems in part to a franchise model that blurs accountability.

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