State officials say Wisconsin has seen an upward trend in child labor complaints since 2018, while the U.S. Labor Department says its seen a 69 percent increase in cases of children being illegally employed during the same period.

The federal government is currently investigating over 600 cases of possible child labor exploitation. In the last fiscal year alone, the Department of Labor identified 835 companies operating in violation of child labor laws affecting 3,800 children, and saw a 26 percent increase in minors employed in hazardous occupations.

In 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Equal Rights Division received 18 minor employment complaints. Last year, the department received 86 complaints, according to Jennifer Sereno, the department’s communications director.

Of the 86 complaints, financial penalties have been paid or imposed in 13 violations, nine were dismissed or withdrawn and 64 remain under investigation, Sereno said.

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