A North Carolina Chick-fil-A franchisee must repay back wages to employees paid in chicken sandwiches, the U.S. Department of Labor ruled.

The controversy began in July 2022 with a now-deleted Facebook post that asked people to work for Chick-fil-A entrees instead of a paycheck.

"We are looking for volunteers for our new Drive Thru Express! Earn 5 free entrees per shift (1 hr) worked," the post read. "Message us for details."

Chick-fil-A corporate quickly clarified that they did not support the program. The franchisee owes $235 in back wages to seven employees.

The owner was also fined more than $6,000 for child labor violations. According to the Department of Labor, three minors were allowed to operate a trash compactor, an infraction of federal labor law.

“Protecting our youngest workers continues to be a top priority for the Wage and Hour Division,” said wage and hour division district director, Richard Blaylock, in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Child labor laws ensure that when young people work, the work does not jeopardize their health, well-being or educational opportunities. In addition, employers are responsible to pay workers for all of the hours worked and the payment must be made in cash or legal tender.”

Labor shortages impact entire poultry supply chain

The entire poultry supply chain is struggling with a challenging labor market. 

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Unemployment has also dropped to a low of 2.6%, illustrating how difficult it can be for employers to fill open positions. This puts a tight squeeze on companies looking to hire and disrupting typical talent supply and demand patterns. For example, Raising Cane’s temporarily sent 250 corporate staff members to work at foodservice locations in 2021 due to staffing shortages.

Labor shortages were an issue pre-COVID-19, but the pandemic only exacerbated this. This can result in customer frustrations if delays occur.

Automation in the drive thru is just one of the many ways chicken foodservice brands have embraced technology to drive better engagement with the digital consumer. Other technologies include delivery robots, virtual kitchens, ordering kiosks, the metaverse and more.

“It can take some stress off the staff, especially when we’re all in a situation where staffing is definitely tough,” noted Kelley Bailie Fechner, director, customer solutions, Datassential, said at the 2022 Chicken Marketing Summit.

Attend the 2023 Chicken Marketing Summit

The 2023 Chicken Marketing Summit will be held at Hotel Effie Sandestin in Miramar Beach, Florida on Monday, July 31 – Wednesday, August 2, 2023. Serving a unique cross section of the chicken supply chain, Chicken Marketing Summit explores issues and trends in food marketing and consumer chicken consumption patterns and purchasing behavior.

For more information and to attend, visit: www.wattglobalmedia.com/chickenmarketingsummit/.