Blackjack Pizza Scandal

Kaya Paluda, Editor in Chief

If you haven’t been keeping up with the news the past month or two then this might be new news for you but, The U.S. Department of Labor is alleging the Blackjack Pizza location in Firestone for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by intimidating and retaliating against their employees. 

According to a document filed on Thursday, Jan. 12, the owner of Blackjack Pizza Shawna Bingham fired two employees in retaliation for filing a complaint to the Labor Department. The department filed for a temporary restraining order on that Thursday in Colorado District Court to prevent Bingham from engaging in further retaliation and to ensure that all employees know that they are free to speak truthfully to investigators without fear of poor action.

Adding to that in December the Wage and Hour Division of the department initiated an investigation into the establishment in Firestone, and that investigation is ongoing. “In December, WHD investigators met with Bingham to discuss the investigation. During the meeting, Bingham commented several times about terminating the employee she believed filed the complaint, the lawsuit said.” (Fox31)

According to court documents, Bingham said this was to the investigation. But the lead investigator told Bingham that the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing complaints, according to the court documents.

Bingham has been operating the Firestone Blackjack location for 10 years. After a call with Amy Golden a writer for the LongmontLeader, she said that the initial investigation related to the number of hours her employees under 16 were working she had no awareness that those under 16 had a limited number of hours that they were allowed to work. This included school breaks and working with certain equipment that required them to be 18 years or older. “I did exactly what I was turned in for, but not intentionally,” Bingham said. “I was following the state of Colorado. I had no idea.”

Bingham followed up by firing the employee who had filed the initial complaint but claimed that she was already planning to fire the employee in advance for “other reasons” not retaliation. “For Colorado, based on that, no employer is allowed to work a minor more than 40 hours in a week or more than eight hours in any 24 hours. Overall work limitations for those under 16 are no more than three hours on a school day, a limit of eight hours on a non-school day, and no work time above 18 hours during a school week.” (Colorado Department of Labor and Employment) 

Junior Makenzie Carpenter said, “When I first got my job at 15 I always worked more than 3 hours on a school day. I think the minimum amount of hours I would work when I was 15 was four. This did surprise me that I never knew a lot of these rules when I first got my job but when the management switched up about a year after these rules were enforced a lot actually which surprised a lot of the kids who started at 15 too.”

Job corporations ignoring labor laws isn’t something new. Student workers are most likely never informed of these laws at first when they are initially being broken and they don’t know what they need to contact the state for this. But also I think a lot of the student workers who are aware are afraid to speak up, especially because of what was showcased with the Blackjack scandal. They don’t want to put their income and job on the line so they’d rather stay quiet. But getting what needs to be done right is a top priority for a safe workspace.

Another Junior Francisco Gutierrez mentioned as well, “When I got my job the summer I turned 15 I had no clue or recognition of these rules and honestly still don’t know but they would have been good to know a year earlier when my job had me working 4.5-5 hours on a school day.” 

There are two distinct sides to the argument of whether or not you should be working while studying. Some have enough means to skip working while others don’t have any choice. Regardless of the reason why you are working in high school, you must understand that there are several pros and cons in this situation. There are also some crucial things that every student worker must know before getting employed. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment mentions in the Youth Laws: 

  • Minors can’t work more than 40 hours a week 
  • Under 16: No more than three hours on school days, a limit of 8 hours on non-school days, and no work time over 18 hours during school weeks. 
  • Minors under 16 may work up to 40 hours during non-school weeks. Additionally, on school days, during school hours, no minor under the age of 16 is permitted employment unless he or she has a school release permit.
  • Minors under 16 can work between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm during the basic school year, but between June 1 and Labor Day, the evening hours are extended to 9:00 pm. (These do not apply to anyone aged 16 and 17 or to minors employed as actors, models, or performers.)
  • Work performed by 14- and 15-year-olds during school hours is limited to Work Experience, Career Exploration, and Work Study Programs.
  • The CYEOA does not restrict the times of day when 16- and 17-year-old employees may be scheduled to work. The only limitations in this area pertain to the daily and weekly hours noted above.

With the recent scandal that has just recently occurred in the community, if you’re a student worker make sure you know your youth labor laws beforehand especially if you are under the age of 16. Blackjack could be just the start of the realization that minors who work have rules that might need to be more enforced in their workspace.