A Letter from Maxine Clark
May 27, 2009
Dear Associates, Guests and Partners,
On May 18, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it had fined our company for child labor violations. I?d like to share some information to better explain what led to the fines and to let you know the actions we have taken to ensure future compliance. We respect the mission of the DOL and we regret that any problems occurred.
While the DOL audit only involved associate activities, please be assured that we take the security and well-being of our Guests, our associates and our partners very seriously. We know that it is our responsibility to make certain that we have a safe environment for our Guests to shop in with their families and for our associates to work in each day. We are committed to providing this.
The DOL audit identified 14 minors (16 and 17- year- olds) in five of our 271 US stores who at some point in a 28 month period either loaded or operated a trash compactor or operated a freight elevator in violation of DOL standards. Most of the fines resulted from our not fully understanding the exceptions to the rules for loading a trash compactor. Importantly, no one was injured while performing these tasks.
Build-A-Bear Workshop has cooperated fully and completely with the Department of Labor. Even before the DOL completed its audit or reported its results to us, we communicated with our associates to ensure that our team understood how the DOL interpreted its rules, made certain that everyone complied with that interpretation and implemented changes to our processes to ensure that we are in compliance with all DOL standards going forward. In September 2008, after we received the official results of the audit, Build-A-Bear Workshop implemented a policy of hiring only individuals who are 18 years of age or over.
While we support the mission of the DOL, we regret the need to implement this policy. We have always prided ourselves on hiring 16 and 17 year olds --they have been great associates and this has been a wonderful way for them to earn money for college. In fact, our teen associates have been some of our best employees and many of these great young people have gone on to be successful in other jobs, college and elsewhere. In January 2009, Build-A-Bear Workshop was honored to be included on the 2009 Fortune Magazine "100 Best Companies To Work For" list. There is no doubt in my mind that the contributions and the heart of ALL of our employees is the reason we received this award.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. We realize that with each visit to one of our stores, you entrust us with your children and family members and I promise you that we will continue to do everything in our power to be the safe, wholesome and fun place you have come to know over the years. We hope that this additional information is helpful.
As always, please feel free to contact us in the event that you have any questions about this or other aspects of our business.
Founder and Chief Executive Bear