WASHINGTON – As National Human Trafficking Prevention Month concludes, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division continues to support the updated U.S. National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking by committing resources, collaborating with criminal enforcement agencies and providing outreach to combat labor trafficking.
In the U.S., trafficked migrant workers are often intimidated and abused by callous, dishonest employers seeking to exploit their labor. In a recent case, an employer subjected farmworkers in Georgia to unsafe conditions, paid much less than their promised wages and forced workers to reside in dangerously cramped and unsanitary employer-provided housing. Another employer in Florida was found to be part of an alleged multi-state racketeering conspiracy that victimized farmworkers by imposing debts, confiscating passports, isolating workers and forcing them to live in degrading and unsanitary conditions. This employer also threatened to harm workers’ family members if they did not comply with demands.
“The Wage and Hour Division is engaged in the fight to prevent and identify human trafficking and is committed to ending the exploitation of workers,” said Acting Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman. “The Wage and Hour Division works with its partner agencies to combat the crimes employers commit to increase their profits at the expense of the dignity, respect and, in many cases, freedom of workers. The Wage and Hour Division is determined to end the cycle of fear and intimidation.”
As part of the national action plan, the division is offering its investigators increased training on human trafficking nationwide. Training will enhance their ability to identify the indicators of human trafficking and make referrals to criminal enforcement agencies. In addition, offices will seek opportunities to engage actively with local human trafficking task forces and partners on the ground who have longstanding relationships with communities at risk.
To raise awareness of the issue, the division’s Southeast region will host a virtual roundtable on Jan. 31 with stakeholders combating human trafficking to discuss the prevalence and indicators of labor trafficking in the agriculture industry. The event will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. EST. Participation is free, but advance registration for this virtual roundtable is required.
For more information about H-2A, MSPA, FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.