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What Businesses Need to Know About Human Trafficking

Social_Support_for_Underprivileged_Children_and_Victims_of_Trafficking.jpg“Human trafficking” involves both the forced movement of people into, out of, and within the United States; as well as those individuals’ forced labor in various industries and the sex trade. The issue has gained prominence as a matter of national and international concern in recent years. Most laws addressing the issue cover criminal penalties for involvement in trafficking and programs to support anti-trafficking efforts and assist victims. At least one state law, along with a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2011, requires certain businesses to disclose their anti-trafficking initiatives. Businesses that employ immigrant workers or that deal in national or international commerce should be aware of these laws, both in Ohio and at the federal level.

Human Trafficking Statistics

Definitive statistics on the number of people trafficked through or within the United States are practically impossible to obtain, in large part because the practice remains shrouded in mystery. The U.S. Department of State has estimated that up to 27 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking for the sex trade and other industries, such as agriculture or manufacturing. At the same time, these statistics remain estimates, and few cases become actual case studies. The Ohio Attorney General’s office states that as many as 100,000 children may be trafficked in the U.S. as part of the sex trade, although its study had a total survey sample of 207 children.

Legal Prohibitions

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 directs the government to provide resources for anti-trafficking programs, sanctions against countries that do not work to prevent trafficking, and support for victims of trafficking. The Ohio Legislature passed the Safe Harbor Law, House Bill 262, recently, which contains similar provisions for anti-trafficking initiatives. It also contains penalty enhancements for criminal trafficking charges and a pre-trial diversion program for trafficked children.

Corporate Obligations

The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 places certain anti-trafficking responsibilities on businesses with annual gross revenues of $100,000,000 or more. Businesses covered by the statute must make an annual report to the state’s attorney general disclosing their efforts, if any, to ensure that they and their suppliers are not engaged in human trafficking at any point in the supply chain. A bill introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2011 would impose similar obligations on high-gross-revenue businesses, requiring them to disclose anti-trafficking information in their annual Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.

What Businesses Should Do

Currently, most businesses have no affirmative legal duties to investigate human trafficking or disclose any anti-trafficking policies or procedures. Given the attention this issue has received recently, businesses should consider a few basic steps regarding anti-trafficking efforts:

1. Identify and assess and risks your company may have of involvement in trafficking. For some, the risk may be negligible, but for others, it may be great.
2. Develop policies to avoid involvement in trafficking.
3. Draft language to include in contracts and other documents prohibiting any sort of forced labor or trafficking.
4. Make training available to personnel that explains the company’s policies on trafficking and how to apply them.

The Rant

Human trafficking is a heinous crime, but the numbers always remain “estimates” due to under reporting. As awareness and the body of law regarding human trafficking grow, companies can be preemptive in examining their business policies and practices. While the intent of the laws affecting companies is to prevent the abuse of people, legislators need to be mindful of the administrative burden these laws can place on businesses and allow for adequate training and implementation of the new anti-human trafficking policies and procedures.

More Blog Posts:

The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
UndocuBus: Putting a Face on Undocumented Immigrants in U.S., ImmigRantings, September 10, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Social Support for Underprivileged Children and Victims of Trafficking’ by Springluver (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.