The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says youth labor complaints increased more than 250% from 2021 to 2022 in Missouri. Employers are struggling to fill available jobs with adults and businesses are starting to turn to younger workers between the ages of 14 and 18 to fill that gap, according to Todd Smith, with the state Division of Labor Standards.

He said that youth having a safe working environment is key.

“So, we have occasionally complaints about kids working till nine o’clock or something, and occasionally it is the job that they are doing would be considered dangerous. For example, a young kid can’t be running a fryer, or chopping meat or something along those lines,” according to Smith.

The complaints range from dangerous work environments or working late hours on a school night. Smith said they relate to the rules businesses are required to follow when employing a young worker.

“An employer that has a small restaurant or something is desperate to get somebody in there. So, they may have 14- or 15-year-olds hired to bus tables or something. We’ve seen a big uptick in the number of youth, and when I say youth, we’re talking 14- and 15-year-olds in the employment area now.”

In the case of a 14- or 15-year-old working, a work certificate or a work permit is required. Portions of it must be signed by a parent/guardian, the employer and a school official. Then, the document must be submitted to the Division of Labor Standards’ Youth Employment section.

“Just filling the positions is getting really, really difficult for employers out there,” explains Smith. “They’re looking at all avenues.”

Residents are encouraged to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards if employers are not following the rules related to youth employment.

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