The importance of prevention both during and after National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
January 2021 | General Industries
BY SIMON TANNER AND PATRICK WILSHIRE
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year
Civil human trafficking lawsuits more than doubled from 2018 to 2019
Any business with a federal contract for more than $500,000 in goods or services is required to have a plan in place to prevent human trafficking
Human trafficking is often referred to as modern-day slavery. It occurs when a criminal third party exploits any man, woman or child for labor or sex, for profit or for gain. Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world.1 And it happens more often than you’d think. In 2019, 11,500 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, of which 8,248 involved sex trafficking and 1,236 involved labor trafficking.2
Trafficking is a hidden crime, because issues such as language barriers, fear of their traffickers or fear of law enforcement prevent victims from getting the help they need. In many cases, victims are lured with false promises of financial or emotional security before being coerced into commercial sex acts or labor. Human traffickers then use violence, threats or other forms of manipulation to maintain control over their victims.3
It’s critical for businesses to educate their employees on human trafficking, training them on what to look for and how to report suspicious activity. Beyond the moral obligation to protect victims, there are a number of liability concerns for employers who fail to implement the appropriate protocols to prevent human trafficking at their place of business. This article will provide a general overview of human trafficking, applicable legislation and penalties related to human trafficking, and ways operations can help those who need it the most.
Human trafficking is a criminal act that exploits men, women and children for labor or sex. Typically, traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control and manipulate their victims. For instance, criminals may isolate victims from familiar surroundings, give false promises of profit or threaten harm.4
While there are obvious societal benefits when it comes to preventing human trafficking, many organizations are unaware that it could happen in their supply chain or at their business itself. However, human trafficking can occur under the guise of any legal business or in a variety of inconspicuous venues.
Businesses that wrongfully believe that human trafficking can’t or doesn’t affect them not only endanger the lives of victims, but also open themselves up to potential liability concerns. Notably, the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which was originally passed in 2000 and expanded in 2003 via the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), broadened criminal penalties and created civil penalties for those engaging in all forms of human trafficking. Since 2000, the TVPA has been reauthorized by Congress nine times, most recently in 2019.7
The TVPRA provides victims of trafficking with a private right of action to sue businesses for their part in allowing human trafficking to occur on their premises, even if the organization didn’t have any knowledge it was taking place. These lawsuits are becoming increasingly common, as civil human trafficking lawsuits more than doubled from 2018 to 2019. In 2019 alone, at least 125 hospitality-related entities were sued in state and federal courts in connection with human trafficking.8
Additionally, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) outlines specific rules for organizations that do business with the federal government. Essentially, any business with a federal contract for more than $500,000 in goods or services is required to have a plan in place to prevent human trafficking. These federal contractors also must, to the best of their knowledge, certify that members of their supply chain have not engaged in human trafficking activity.9 Violations of either of these requirements can result in the termination of the contract, debarment, False Claims Act liability and whistleblower claims.10
Civil human trafficking lawsuits more than doubled from 2018 to 2019.
In addition to the federal mandates, every state has enacted laws that establish criminal penalties for human traffickers.11 It’s important to note that these laws vary, meaning the definition of human trafficking and how courts interpret applicable laws and penalties for being involved in human trafficking will depend on where a business operates.11 Many states have enacted rules that businesses must follow in order to combat human trafficking. These rules include requirements related to training employees on how to identify and respond to human trafficking as well as reporting incidents.
At both the federal and state level, there are strict and specific guidelines on how cases are evaluated. If a business knew or should have known that human trafficking was occurring, it could be subject to legal repercussions. But even if they can financially recover from a claim, businesses involved in human trafficking cases may never earn back public trust. That’s why it’s crucial to educate yourself and your staff members on the characteristics of human trafficking.
Given the hidden nature of human trafficking, there are several misconceptions surrounding it. These misconceptions prevent businesses and their employees from understanding and spotting human trafficking in the workplace. As such, it’s crucial to understand common human trafficking myths:
Having a basic sense of these myths puts businesses and their employees in a better position to spot common indicators of human trafficking. This is particularly important when you consider that, even if an individual interacts with the victim daily, it’s easy for human trafficking to go unnoticed. While no single indicator necessarily constitutes proof of human trafficking, recognizing common red flags is a critical first step in identifying potential victims and criminals.17
Spotting human trafficking victims
Spotting human trafficking perpetrators
Source: Department of Homeland Security
While recognizing the misconceptions and signs of human trafficking is a great first step to preventing it, there are other policies and procedures to consider. Indicators of human trafficking may not be obvious. In addition, the presence or absence of human trafficking indicators does not necessarily constitute proof of criminal activity. However, the more informed you are, the more equipped you will be to intervene.
The following are some risk management strategies to keep in mind:
Human trafficking can affect anyone at any place of business, underscoring the importance of continued education. While preventing human trafficking should always be a top-of-mind concern for employers throughout the year, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and a great time to examine your business’s risk management efforts. During this time, it’s important for employers to reaffirm their commitment to preventing human trafficking and remind employees of what’s at stake. Participating in National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month could involve: