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The National Prevention Toolkit

on Officer-Involved Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

Labor Trafficking

What is labor trafficking? *

Transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person. – FL Statute 787.06

When persons, domestic or foreign nationals, are compelled to work in some service or industry through force or coercion. – Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Victims *

  • Victims can be both U.S. citizens and immigrants. Those who are immigrants tend to have recently migrated to the U.S.
  • Both labor and sex traffickers often use physical and sexual assault as a way to control victims.
  • Victims can be any age, ethnicity, or gender.
  • Victims often have some vulnerability–gender, socioeconomic status, immigration status, etc.– that puts them at a greater risk of being exploited.

The Perpetrators *

  • A study conducted by the National Institute of Justice found that:
    • Two-thirds of labor traffickers were male
    • The majority of perpetrators were in their 30s and 40s
    • A more sophisticated criminal operation was often indicated if a perpetrator had many victims, as opposed to a single victim
    • A few of the traffickers had formal connections to other criminal networks
  • Labor traffickers can be a single person or a network of people.
  • Traffickers are typically older than the victim.
  • Traffickers are usually the same ethnicity or culture as the victim.

Common Labor Trafficking Sites *

  • Farming/Agriculture
    • Individuals trafficked in the agricultural sector are often difficult to identify because work crews move throughout the country.
    • Immigrants are often trafficked
      • The trafficker can take their passports/visas
      • They often do not know the language or area where they work
      • The traffickers threaten deportation if they run
  • Health and Beauty Services
    • These sites include nail salons, spas, and massage parlors where victims will perform a variety of tasks.
  • Hospitality
    • Victims of labor trafficking can be forced to work at hotels and motels as maids and cooks.
    • Victims can also work at sporting events, on cruise ships, and at other tourist attractions.
  • Restaurants/Food service
    • Labor trafficking victims can be forced to work as cooks, front of house staff, and cleaning staff.
  • Construction
    • Immigrants are often trafficked in construction because
      • The job requires them to move around
      • The trafficker can take their passports/visas
      • They often do not know the language or area
      • The traffickers threaten deportation if they run away.
  • Houses
    • The victims can be forced to work as household servants, babysitters, or cooks.
    • Florida, specifically, has had identified cases of restaveks.
      • A restavek is a child in poverty, sold or given to a wealthy family, with the promise that the child will work for food and education.
      • This act evolved from a Haitian practice but today is seen as human trafficking.

Labor Trafficking: How Do Traffickers Recruit Victims?

The chart below describes tactics used by labor traffickers to recruit and entrap victims and provides specific examples from news articles.

Recruitment Tactic


“American Dream” Tactic

  • Trafficker relies on victims’ motivation for a better life.
  • The victim
    • Is usually recruited in their home country.
      • Victim and trafficker are often the same nationality
    • Hears about the opportunity through social network, often unaware of the true nature of the job.
    • Comes in legally on Guest Worker/other visa or is smuggled in illegally.
  • A Guatemalan victim previously worked in the U.S. to provide for his family.
  • The victim was promised legitimate work again, including high pay, good treatment, and longer stay in U.S.
  • Instead, he was forced to do farm work, live in deplorable conditions, and his documents were confiscated.

Source: Goforth, C. (2014, September 9). How U.S. guest-worker program helps keep human trafficking alive. Orlando Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2017. Read More


  • Trafficker misrepresents the true nature of what will happen to victim.
  • They make false promises about:
    • Job duties and conditions
    • Immigration benefits
    • Living conditions
    • Compensation
  • Mexican veterinarians were recruited to work as animal scientists.
  • Instead, they were forced to perform general labor on a dairy farm.
  • They typically worked 12 hour shifts and were forced to live in substandard conditions.

Source: Boone, R. (2017, January 04). Mexican veterinarians sue Idaho dairy for human trafficking. Retrieved November 03, 2017. Read More


  • Traffickers threaten to give the job away if it is not immediately accepted.
  • The victim
    • Is given little/no time to read the contract before they sign it.
    • Does not understand the language the contract is written in.
    • Is pressured to pay high recruitment fees.
  • A Filipina victim came to the U.S. to work in hotels. She owed $3,000 for visa, airfare, and the accumulated interest.
  • Her contract promised 40 hours per week at minimum wage.
  • Her rent was inflated and her bus pass cost and other deductions were taken from her paycheck.

Source: Schwartz, K. (2017, April 10). New report details exploitation of hotel industry workers. The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2017. Read More

Trafficked by Family

  • Family sells child or adult family member to pay off debts owed.
  • A restavek is a child who is sold/given as a domestic servant in exchange for the child receiving an education.
    • Culturally accepted practice in Haiti
    • Abusive, based on socioeconomic class, and exploits the child
    • Restaveks have been brought into the U.S.
  • An Egyptian family sold their child to pay for medical bills.
  • Another Egyptian couple bought the victim and brought her to the U.S.
  • The victim was forced to be a domestic servant and did not attend school.

Source: Associated Press. (2008, December 29). Child ‘slavery’ now being imported to U.S. Retrieved November 03, 2017. Read More

Physical Force

  • Physical force is rarely used when recruiting victims.
  • Physical force is more common as a control method than as a recruiting tactic.
  • Traffickers lured 600 Thai victims to work on farms.
  • The traffickers severely abused the victims.

Source: Seper, J. (2011, June 15). 3 plead guilty to forced farm labor of Thais in U.S. The Washington Times. Retrieved November 3, 2017. Read More

Labor Trafficking: How Do Traffickers Control Victims?

The chart below describes tactics used by labor traffickers to control victims and provides specific examples from news articles.

Controlling Tactic



  • The trafficker uses
    • Physical, sexual, and verbal abuse.
    • Threats of abuse or death.
    • Threats of violence or retaliation against the victim’s family members.
  • The victim is forced to work while sick or injured.
  • Victims were enslaved on a tomato farm.
  • The victims were severely beaten, restrained, and locked in a truck.
  • One of the traffickers left an inches-long scar across one victim’s torso.

Source: Beardsley, S. (2008, December 19). Brothers receive 12-year prison terms in Immokalee human slavery case. Naples Daily News. Retrieved October 11, 2017. Read More


  • The trafficker
    • Doesn’t allow the victim to go anywhere alone.
    • Confiscates their identification and immigration documents.
    • Doesn’t allow the victim to leave the job site and living area.
    • Confiscates the victim’s phone or other forms of communication.
    • Doesn’t allow the victim to learn English.
  • Filipino immigrants were forced to work in hospitality services.
  • Their passports were confiscated.
  • The victims were not allowed to leave without a trafficker escorting them.

Source: CBS. (2010, December 12). Couple sentenced for human trafficking. CBS Miami. Retrieved October 11, 2017. Read More

Financial Control

  • The trafficker
    • Pays the victim little to no wages.
    • Continually increases the victim’s debt.
    • Forces the victim to pay back smuggling or recruitment fees.
    • Deducts benefits (i.e., healthcare) from wages
      • But the victim never receives the benefits.
  • Laotian victims were forced into indentured servitude.
  • The victims were forced to put the traffickers’ names on their bank accounts.
  • Their documents were confiscated and they had to pay off $25,000 “debt” to get back.
  • The traffickers threatened physical harm and deportation.

Source: Hacking, J. (2015, June 24). Midwest Immigration Attorney Explains Criminal Charges Filed in Immigrant Slavery Case. Retrieved November 15, 2017. Read More

Diminishing Resistance

  • The trafficker
    • Controls or restricts the victim’s access to food.
    • Forces the victim to live in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions.
    • Forces the victim to stay awake for long periods of time.
    • Forces the victim to work long hours.
  • Nigerian victims were forced to work as domestic servants.
  • They were dependent on the trafficker for all their necessities.
  • The trafficker beat them severely, forced them to sleep on the floor, to bathe with a bucket, and to eat spoiled food.

Source: Ford, D. (2011, June 13). Jury convicts Georgia woman of trafficking 2 Nigerian women. Retrieved November 03, 2017. Read More

Threatens Use of Law

  • The trafficker threatens the victim with deportation or arrest.
    • Deportation is seen by the victim as ultimate failure, or shameful.
    • The victim is unable to provide for their family.
  • The trafficker threatens to have the victim’s family arrested in the victim’s home country.
  • The trafficker tells the victim they will be harmed by law enforcement.
  • Vietnamese victims were forced to work in nail salons.
  • The trafficker confiscated their documents.
  • They were threatened with going to jail if they told anyone what was happening.

Source: McClure, J. (2010, February 16). York County human trafficking: ‘Three years of … long hours, often seven days a week, for no pay’. Retrieved November 17, 2017. Read More

Sponsored by the

The Human Trafficking Project was supported by Award No. VF011 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, Sponsored by the Institute for Family Violence Studies and the State of Florida.


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