News Release

Department of Labor identifies more than 170 child labor violations by operators of 6 Reno-area Sonic Drive-In franchise locations

SDI of Neil LLC allowed children to operate dangerous equipment, pays $71K in fines

RENO, NV – Federal investigators have found the operator of six Nevada Sonic Drive-In locations illegally allowed 14- and 15-year-old teenagers to work more hours and at times not permitted by federal child labor regulations and assigned them to operate manual deep fryers, a task considered a hazardous occupation.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined SDI of Neil LLC, which operates as Sonic Drive-In, committed more than 170 violations of the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Specifically, investigators learned the Reno-based employer allowed the young workers to operate fryers without automatic fry baskets that move food in and out of hot oil and grease, which are prohibited jobs for workers under age 16.

To resolve its child labor violations, SDI of Neil LLC and the company’s owners Taylor M. Cain, Ian N. Cain, and Quinn M. Cain paid $71,182 in civil money penalties. The division also recovered $274 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages for two young workers denied overtime pay for hours over 40 in a workweek by the employer. Investigators also determined the employer hired one employee who was then 13-years-old, which is under the legal age for employment in restaurants and other non-agricultural jobs.

“While learning new skills in the workforce is a valuable as teens grow up, federal law dictates how employers must protect children by making sure their first jobs are safe and that they do not interfere with their education or well-being,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Gene Ramos in Las Vegas. “The Fair Labor Standards Act allows for developmental experiences but restricts the employment of young workers in certain jobs and provides for penalties when employers do not follow the law. We encourage employers, young workers, their parents and other stakeholders to take advantage of our many online resources or to contact the division for additional guidance.”

The division’s investigation included the following Sonic Drive-In locations:





1856 E. College Parkway

Carson City

6250 S. Virginia St.


2070 Reno Highway


1220 N. McCarran Blvd.


1652 Highway 395


4995 Galleria Parkway


Specifically, the division found SDI of Neil LLC and its owners employed 14- and 15-year-old children illegally as follows:

  • Before 7 a.m., later than 7 p.m. on days between Labor Day and June 1, and later than 9 p.m. on days between June 1 and Labor Day.
  • More than 3 hours per day on school days, more than 18 hours a week in a school week, more than 8 hours on a non-school day, and more than 40 hours in a non-school week.

From fiscal year 2018 to 2022, the department identified child labor violations in more than 4,000 cases, finding more than 15,000 children employed in violation.

To help employers avoid child labor violations, the Wage and Hour Division published “Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers” in 2022.

For more information about young workers’ rights and other employee rights enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline confidentially at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. The division protects workers regardless of where they are from and can communicate with workers in more than 200 languages. Download the agency’s free Timesheet App, now available for Android and Apple devices in English and Spanish, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

Learn more about the Fair Labor Standards Act’s child labor provisions.

Wage and Hour Division
May 30, 2023
Release Number
Media Contact: Michael Petersen
Media Contact: Jose Carnevali
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