Labor Trafficking in Texas

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The term “labor trafficking” often draws many misconceptions.  For instance, one popularly held belief is that labor trafficking must always involve smuggling a person across state or international borders.  Another misconception may be that labor trafficking does not exist in the United States.  This article provides helpful information regarding labor trafficking, including what the formal definition of labor trafficking is, possible red flags that labor trafficking may exist, and what parties may be held accountable for engaging in labor trafficking.

What is Labor Trafficking?

The legal definition of labor trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 is, “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”

Based on this legal definition, labor trafficking can be thought of as a form of modern-day slavery.  It involves individuals performing labor services against their will, often because another person or entity is forcing them to by means of fraud, physical violence, or coercion.  The presence of fraud, force, or coercion indicates that the victim has not consented of his or her own free will.

Contrary to some widely-held beliefs, labor trafficking is unfortunately a worldwide phenomenon.  In other words, labor trafficking exists here in the United States, as well as in many other countries across the globe.  Given the secretive nature of labor trafficking operations, it is difficult to determine the extent to which labor trafficking infects the United States.

Victims of labor trafficking may find themselves in their unfortunate situations for several reasons.  One example is debt bondage. In this scenario, the victim may be forced to work against his or her will in order to repay an outstanding debt.  Other examples may include false promises of lucrative compensation, travel opportunities, shelter, companionship, or protection.  However, in many cases, victims eventually find that the reality of their jobs proves to be far different than promised.

One common misconception regarding labor trafficking is its relationship to sex trafficking.  Briefly stated, both labor trafficking and sex trafficking are forms of human trafficking.  However, labor trafficking is distinguished from sex trafficking, where the work or task involved is sexual in nature.  It is important to note that individuals may be victims of both labor and sex trafficking.

Another misconception is that labor trafficking involves only children or only male adults.  However, this is not the case.  Citizens of the United States, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals are all susceptible of being a labor trafficking victim.  Immigration status, recruitment debt, poverty, and a lack of strong labor protections are a few examples of some of the vulnerabilities that can lead to labor trafficking.

Labor Trafficking Examples

It is important to realize that labor trafficking can present itself in several ways.  Listed below are a few prevalent examples of cases that may involve some form of labor trafficking:

Child Labor

Child labor trafficking often involves bonded labor or debt bondage, where a child incurs a debt he or she is never able to pay off.  Child labor trafficking may also involve involuntary domestic servitude, such as cases where a child is forced to work in someone’s home with little or no pay.

Domestic Servitude

This type of labor trafficking involves the forced employment of someone as a “maid,” “nanny,” or other household-type worker.  Victims of forced domestic servitude may often be migrant individuals, particularly women.  These victims are often expected to perform tasks such as cleaning, cooking and childcare in their employer’s home.

Farmworkers and Factory Workers

Labor trafficking can also infect the lives of farm or factory workers.  In these cases, the victims are expected to work long hours, often performing demanding manual labor.  In addition to having to work against their will, these victims may also be subjected to inhumane working conditions.  For instance, the workers may be denied access to breaks, water, food, or air-conditioning.

Although child labor, domestic servitude, and factory and farm work are some of the more widely-known forms of labor trafficking, it is critical to realize that labor trafficking can and does exist in many other industries.  Examples of industries where some form of labor trafficking has been reported include:

  • Restaurant Industry
  • Construction Work
  • Carnivals
  • Health and Beauty Services
  • Door-to-Door Salesmen

Labor Trafficking Statistics

Learning about key statistics and figures with respect to labor trafficking may be a useful means for better understanding the harsh nature of this cruel and unfortunate phenomenon.  Listed below are several notable labor trafficking statistics.

  • Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are over 20 million people trapped in forced labor in industries including agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing.
  • The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor has identified 148 different goods from 76 countries made by forced and child labor.
  • Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of more than 7,800 labor trafficking cases inside the United States alone.
  • According to a report from The Human Trafficking Institute, 74 criminal human trafficking cases made their way through federal courts in Texas in 2018, 6 of which involved labor trafficking.

Red Flags of Labor Trafficking

Because labor trafficking may often occur in plain sight, it is crucial to learn possible red flags that may indicate that a labor trafficking operation is occurring.  Understanding and familiarizing yourself with potential warning signs of labor trafficking may help prevent or stop this act from continuing to take place.  Described below are several possible red flags for of labor trafficking.

  • Appearing malnourished or fatigues
  • Poor health
  • Exhibiting physical injuries or signs of physical or emotional abuse
  • Working excessively long hours
  • Presence of small children working in a restaurant, factory, or other business
  • Lacking official identification documents
  • Living at place of employment
  • Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement
  • Security measures on a place of business intended to keep people inside an establishment
  • Not allowing people to go into public alone or speak for themselves

What To Do If You Suspect Labor Trafficking

If you suspect that a labor trafficking operation may exist, or that a person is being forced, coerced, or defrauded into working against his or her will, there are ways for you to take action and help.

One step you can take is to go online and learn even more about labor trafficking.  For example, you can learn more about what industries are most likely to engage in illegal labor trafficking.  You can also learn how to reach out to people who you suspect may be victims of labor trafficking.

However, the best action you can take involves contacting law enforcement or trained professionals who have experience handling these types of cases.  Listed below are several contacts that may be available for you to report any tips of suspected labor trafficking.

Call 911

If you experience any sort of emergency, you can always call 911 in order to report what you have seen, heard, or experienced.  When calling 911, be sure to provide as many details as you possibly can in order to best help the authorities investigate the suspected labor trafficking case.

National Human Trafficking Hotline (Call 1-888-373-7888 or Text 233733)

The National Human Trafficking Hotline service is a national resource center which aims to serve victims and survivors of human in the United States. The hotline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  More information can also be found at the website www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

Who May Be Held Accountable for Labor Trafficking?

Generally speaking, the individuals who are forcing, defrauding, or coercing another person into working against their will may be held liable for illegal labor trafficking.  For instance, if a homeowner forces a person to work as a maid against their will (a form of domestic servitude), that homeowner may be held liable for labor trafficking.

In addition to these individuals, licensed businesses and corporations also often benefit from labor trafficking.  These entities profit from the labor provided by people working against their will.  Making matters worse is the fact that many of these entities may turn a blind eye to forced labor taking place on their property.

In general, these businesses and corporations assume a legal responsibility and are expected to play a proactive role when it comes to protecting at-risk laborers and trafficking victims. When businesses and corporations allow, encourage, or enable traffickers to violate basic human rights in exchange for illegal profits, the civil court system may be able to intervene by providing access to justice for victims.

What May Zinda Law Group Do?

Thousands of individuals fall victim or illegal labor trafficking operations each year.  Unfortunately, few have the resources to reach out for help.  Even fewer have experience filing a lawsuit or seeking appropriate legal assistance.

However, this should not prevent or deter you from seeking help.  Civil laws may allow survivors and victims of labor trafficking to seek monetary damages from parties that earned money from their participation in these illegal operations.  In other words, victims of labor trafficking may be able to pursue compensation for the harm they have been forced to experience.

At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys are here to help explain and protect your legal rights.  If you would like to see if our attorneys may be able to offer assistance in a particular scenario, feel free to give us a call at (512) 246-2224.

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