Human Trafficking: A Legal Primer

Slavery was ended by the Emancipation Proclamation in the Civil War, yet roughly 60,000 of the world’s forty million slaves reside in the United States.  In many areas, workers serve as forced labor for months or even years.  These individuals receive negligible pay if any, and they are forced to reimburse their employers’ “expenses” and have no control as to whether they can leave.

The number of slaves include women and girls caught in the sex trafficking industry.  Much like the forced laborers on many farms and factories, these women have no place to go, no one who will care for them, and no choice.

To make it worse, a slave today is cheaper, comparatively speaking, than during the American Civil War.  So many slaveholders have little to no incentive to care for their slaves. Therefore, they see them only as disposable assets and not people.

Commercial Slavery

In 2000, lawmakers approved the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and slavery victims are entitled to substantial compensation under its provisions.  This law applies if the slaveholder:

  •       Used, or threatened to use, any force or restraint,
  •       Harmed, or threatened to harm, a member of the victim’s family, or
  •       Implied that a refusal to work would cause serious harm.

These provisions allow for broad enforcement.  For example, in most cases, the slaveholder need not have the ability to harm the victim’s family so long as the victim reasonably believes they can harm their family.  The TVPA also applies to any company which “knowingly benefit[s]” from slavery or “receive[s] anything of value” from it. As a result, many companies have paid settlements to TVPA claimants.

Some states add to this with anti-human trafficking laws as well.

Sex Slavery

Many sex trade victims have filed claims against Craigslist,, and other online entities who publish advertisements for sex.  For the most part, these claims have not been successful.

A premises liability claim, however, is entirely different.  Essentially, if a property owner knows or should have known that illegal sex trade activity is taking place on their property, even if it’s due to inadequate security, and they failed to correct the problem, the owner could be liable for damages.  These cases are difficult, although not impossible, to win.

Regardless of how one seeks justice, it’s critical to find a personal injury attorney, to get proper justice.