Nine Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants -- known for their motto "where a kid can be a kid" -- have been fined by the U.S. Department of Labor for allowing young workers to operate dangerous equipment, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nine Bay Area branches were fined a total of $28,000 for violating federal child labor laws. The restaurants allowed minors to operate trash compactors and run dough-mixing machines, a breach of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"We all want young workers to develop the skills and experience necessary to compete in the marketplace, but safety must never be sacrificed in the process," said Ruben Rosalez, acting administrator in the Western region for the Labor Department's wage and hour division. "Employers have an obligation to ensure minors are not performing tasks that could be harmful, which is why these child labor rules were established."

The Labor Department said Chuck E. Cheese's has agreed to pay the civil penalties and will comply with federal law by prohibiting their young employees from operating the machines. Brenda Holloway, a spokeswoman for the restaurants, said they did not comply with the child labor laws because they did not know of them.

"As soon as we were made aware of that, we did correct the deficiencies and paid our fines," Holloway told the Chronicle. "We're walking the straight and narrow now."

Child labor laws were recently brought to the nation's attention by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who called them "truly stupid" and advocated replacing janitors with poor schoolchildren.

Photo credit: David Reber