It is estimated that 14 million people are trafficked for labor in the world. Human trafficking is tied for the second largest criminal industry in the world. Many assume it is a hidden enterprise, but in fact, people are commonly trafficked in the open. In the U.S., traffickers prey on vulnerable persons without social support and financial independence, including immigrants, refugees, and non-English speaking individuals. Construction, mining, and the service industries are where trafficking is most likely to occur. How can businesses combat this type of criminal behavior and help put a stop to the practice?
Location and Risk
It is critical to identify if your business is located in an area where trafficking is more likely to occur. Easy access to highways and transportation, tourist attractions, and communities with a large number of agricultural and seasonal workplaces are popular hubs for moving and transferring people. Transportation professionals are often the first line of defense against this practice. Reporting concerns, such as suspicious vehicles and unusual behavior between a group of people, is an effective way to halt traffickers. Similarly, awareness in daily commutes on public transportation can aid law enforcement in intervention.
Verify employment through background checks and references. Don’t rely on forms of identification alone to assume proper employment. 71% of trafficking victims in the United States have legal visas and entered the country legally. Many victims may be afraid to come forward for fear or harm, imprisonment, or deportation. If anything in your assessment seems out of the ordinary, contact 911 or the Human Trafficking Hotline. Document safe workplace policies and train your employees to recognize the signs of trafficking and how to report them.
Review your partnerships with third-party entities and vendors. Are they practicing safe and legal hiring? Have there been any investigations into the company for worker violations? Are all labor agreements in writing and properly documented? If you answered no to any of these questions, it may be time to end your relationship with these organizations. Notify law enforcement or contact the hotline if you identify illegal or unethical employment practices.
Connect with the Community
Build alliances with non-profit organizations in your community to learn more about awareness and reporting. Making these connections improves the overall safety of your town and protects trafficking victims. Consider hiring those who have been affected by trafficking or provide assistance to organizations that reengage individuals into the workforce.
A few simple steps in your daily workplace practices can help curb crimes against workers in your community. January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Be aware, be alert, and assist your employees in breaking the cycle of human trafficking.
Fisher, N. (2017). Human trafficking is in plain sight. Are you supporting it without knowing? Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolefisher/2017/04/24/human-trafficking-in-plain-sight/#75a117a51f8e
WRAL. (2018). NC among top 10 states for human trafficking. Retrieved from https://www.wral.com/nc-among-top-10-states-for-human-trafficking/16515034/
Gleave, M., Miller, A., Sellers, C. (2017). Transportation officials have a role in human trafficking battle. Retrieved from https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-sex-trafficking-transportation-20170607-story.html
Hodges, C. (2018). 5 ways businesses can help end human trafficking for good. Retrieved from https://www.uschamber.com/article/5-ways-businesses-can-help-end-human-trafficking-good