If you believe you are a victim of trafficking or to file a report, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888 or call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465.
Labor Trafficking Defined
In accordance with An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People, it is a crime in Massachusetts to subject or attempt to subject, recruit, harbor, entice, transport into or provide any person for forced services, or to benefit financially or receive anything of value as a result of said actions. Under the law, “forced services," are services performed or provided by a person that are obtained or maintained by another person who:
- causes or threatens to cause serious harm to any person;
- physically restrains or threatens to physically restrain another person;
- abuses or threatens to abuse the law or legal process;
- knowingly destroys, conceals, removes, confiscates or possesses any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person;
- engages in extortion; or
- causes or threatens to cause financial harm to any person.
Massachusetts’ definition of “forced services” is more broad than that of the definitions of “involuntary servitude” and “severe forms of trafficking in persons” under the federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.
The industries that may operate in the underground economy and in which labor trafficking is known to occur include, but are not limited to: domestic labor, agriculture, mining, construction, landscaping, forestry, day labor sites, temporary placement positions, manufacturing, fishing, door-to-door sales, food and drink service, nail salons, entertainment, tourism, canning, disaster cleanup, elder care, and pan-handling.
Labor trafficking occurs among adults and children, foreign-born, and U.S. citizens. It is widely known, however, that immigrant workers are at a higher risk for labor trafficking victimization due to fear of deportation, the ability of a perpetrator to use one’s status as a leverage point, and a lack of understanding of one’s rights as a worker regardless of documented status.
Labor trafficking can be difficult to identify for many reasons. Among them is characterization of workplace disputes as contract negotiation issues or wage and hour violations, as opposed to, labor trafficking victimization. For example, in the case of visa fraud, where a contract may be written in two different languages and provide for different rights, the issue may be viewed as a contract dispute and not visa fraud warranting trafficking prosecution.
Just as the industries in which labor trafficking occurs are varied, so are the risk factors for persons who fall victim to this crime. While there is no profile of a typical trafficked person, it is known that trafficking thrives on perpetrators being able to exploit persons with vulnerabilities such as language barriers, socioeconomic circumstance, worker status, debt, lack of employment opportunities, and societal exposure to crime, addiction, and past abuse. False promises of opportunity and hope can lure persons looking for a better life for themselves or their families into a complex web of involuntary servitude. Workers who are geographically, linguistically, or culturally isolated, such as domestic and agricultural workers, are particularly vulnerable. Those workers housed on the same premises as their employment are especially at-risk and easily hidden by labor traffickers. Increased seclusion yields decreased outside exposure, creating opportunities for employers to confiscate identification, making it nearly impossible for workers to escape especially if they are in the United States with a visa, have temporary status, or are undocumented. In these cases, employers have complete control over their workers.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center (888) 373-7888
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center Massachusetts Data
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center – Labor Trafficking Information
National report on labor trafficking by Urban Institute/Northeastern University:
Trafficking of domestic workers:
Trafficking of temporary workers:
U.S. Department of State 2016 Trafficking in Persons report: