Last month, Dole announced a campaign for tougher enforcement of regulations protecting young workers. Federal officials say the number of child-labor violations has doubled since 1982 as worker shortages in some areas pushed employers to hire more high school-age employees.
"This action serves as a notice to employers that we will not hesitate to use available legal processes, in addition to investigative efforts, to protect America's children," Dole said.
Labor spokesman Corlis Sellers said the violations began in September 1986 in Burger King restaurants in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois and Michigan.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Miami, covers only the 5,000 Burger King restaurants in the U.S. that are owned and operated by the company. No charges were made against Burger King's nearly 4,600 U.S. franchise outlets.
Nigel Travis, a senior vice president at Burger King, said the announcement was "a complete surprise. As one of the larger employers of youth in America, Burger King Corp. fully supports the letter and the spirit of the law and works diligently to comply with it for the benefit of young people."
Under federal laws, 14- and 15-year-olds can't work more than three hours on a school day and a maximum of 18 hours during a five-day school week. On weekends, an eight-hour work day is permissible, and a 40-hour work week is allowed during summer and school vacations.
Employees under 16 can work only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or up to 9 p.m.
from June 1 to Labor Day.