I (Sarah D. Shaich Squillace) recently attended a Continuing Legal Education program about human trafficking and workers’ compensation, calling attention to the importance of the need for awareness within our community of professionals. The presentation was put on by the Advocates for Human Rights, an organization located in Minneapolis.
The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, 81% of them are trapped in forced labor, and 1 in 4 victims of human trafficking are children.
Human Trafficking – How Does it Happen?
I learned that human trafficking does occur in Minnesota. Often, a person is lured into a situation where they are promised a better life, or offered a resource they are lacking, such as housing. Sometimes, when a person is from another country, the trafficker holds onto their documents, such as their passport.
Another sign of a trafficking situation is that a person is not in control of their life. Someone else makes decisions for them, such as where they go, where they live, who they talk to, when they see their family, whether to take a break at work, whether they work when they are sick or injured or how to spend their money. Another identifier to look for is whether a person is indebted (financially or otherwise) to their boss, the person that hired them, or helped the find the job. For example, money could be taken directly from their pay to cover a debt or for travel. The worker remains indebted by increasing the amount they owe, or the amount owed does not decrease.
Human Trafficking and Workers’ Compensation
A person in a trafficking situation may not receive their pay. Either they don’t receive any pay, are not paid on time, or receive food or housing in lieu of pay. Sometimes a victim of trafficking will be threatened, or their family is threatened if they attempt to leave or stop working.
When a person is a victim of human trafficking, he or she may not be aware of it. They may feel that they brought this situation upon themselves or if they just keep working harder they will be able to get out of it. It’s important to know that there is help, and there are resources available. At presentation I attended, we did hear about stories with good outcomes. Traffickers can be prosecuted and there are resources for victims.
Human Trafficking – Take Action
If you know of someone who is a victim of human trafficking, please have them call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. They have a hotline available 24 hours per day, 7 days pers week. The number is 888-373-7888.
For more information about the Minnesota laws and guidelines on human trafficking, please visit https://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/labor_trafficking_protocol_guidelines.html.