Movie theater chain lays off 16-year-old employees, citing new policy to stop hiring minors

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BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Some central Indiana teenagers are feeling the pain of losing their jobs after the chain of movie theaters they worked at decided to stop hiring employees under the age of 18.

Gavan Ruiz and Logan Barker reported their layoffs to the CBS4 Problem Solvers, hoping to shed light on the decision and possibly spark a change.

"When they said that they had to let me go it sucked because it was not just a job, it was more of like a family," Ruiz said.

"I honestly expected to work there for most of my high school career, maybe even college career," Barker said.

Both young men received termination of employment forms that cited the reason for their firing as "policy change" and attributed the decision to "change in hiring and retaining of minors per Bob Goodrich," the CEO of Michigan-based Goodrich Quality Theaters. You can read the termination forms and both 16-year-old's comments at the link below.

Brownsburg 8 Termination of Employment Forms

CBS4 Problem Solvers' newsgathering partners at WLFI in Lafayette report the policy change is company-wide, affecting theaters in the Lafayette area, as well as Noblesville and Lebanon. A petition posted online gathered more than 10,000 signatures.

Darrel Zeck, Executive Director of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship at Indiana's Department of Workforce Development, said the decision to stop hiring minors goes against a trend in the state for employers to seek out younger employees.

"(In) 2019 we had about 2,000 more of those teenagers actually out in the workforce working than we did in 2018, so it’s definitely going in the other direction," Zeck said.

In fact, this year's freshmen class is the first in Indiana that will be required to obtain work-based, service-based, or project-based experience in order to obtain a high school diploma. Governor Eric Holcomb created Zeck's office in 2018, in an effort to boost partnerships between employers and schools to try to cut down on the number of teenagers leaving high school unemployed or dropping out of college.

"The office has been in existence now for about 18 months, I’ve never had one employer tell me, 'Hey, we’ve got enough people, we’re good with workforce right (now)," Zeck said, citing the low unemployment rate as a reason many employers need more help.

That could be good news for teens like Ruiz and Barker, but they told CBS4 Problem Solvers that they'd rather go back to the workplace they didn't want to leave in the first place.

"I think I am going to try to find another job but I do want to, if possible, end up going back," Ruiz said.

"Working there was a great blessing in my opinion," Barker said.

If you have a tip for the CBS4 Problem Solvers, contact us at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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