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Human trafficking and forced labor

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2023 | Federal Crimes

Certain types of crimes fall under federal jurisdiction for various reasons. Human trafficking is one of those crimes.

This offense has two main categories, which are sex trafficking and forced labor. This article provides a general overview of the forced labor category.

What is forced labor?

Despite the name, forced labor does not always involve physical force or threat. The law also defines fraud and coercion as potential justifications for forced-labor allegations.

The purpose also matters. In general, the aim of the alleged criminal act must be to obtain labor or services in an unfair or exploitative manner. This includes slavery, involuntary servitude and debt bondage, among other forms of inequitable employer-employee relationships.

How does the government determine forced labor?

Because of the wide scope of the legal definition, there are many indicators of potential forced labor scenarios. Here are some examples:

  • Using coercion to force workers to perform tasks not in the employment agreement
  • Isolating workers socially or physically
  • Bonding workers by debt via housing charges, training costs, pay deductions and so on

This is not a complete list. Further, forced labor does not always occur entirely during employment. The law also could apply to situations involving recruitment processes or when an employee attempts to leave the job.

How does the United States prosecute human trafficking?

Like all federal criminal allegations, charges of human trafficking for forced labor carry potentially serious consequences. Further, the government typically has extensive evidence to support prosecutorial arguments before ever bringing the charge to the alleged trafficker’s attention.