How Workplaces Can Fight Human Trafficking
I imagine most of us do not give human trafficking a second thought, until we travel through an airport and see the posters promoting the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1 (888) 373-7888). But it exists, and whether we believe it or not, it’s in our communities. Of course, HSI cares about the safety of employees in many aspects of their lives. Safe from workplace hazards, like electrical safety or forklift safety. Safe from harassment, bullying, and discrimination. We also care about society, in general, and believe that all companies and their employees can help fight human trafficking by learning how to recognize the signs and properly intervene.
How often do you get your nails done or stay in a hotel? Or are you in charge of hiring the companies responsible for the teams of people taking care of the landscaping, working your construction site, or cleaning your workplace at night? These are some of the common areas that employ forced labor.
What is Human Trafficking?
The most widely used definition of human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of the threat, or by use of human force, or other forms of coercion, of abduction, or fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. That’s a long, wordy definition, but it indicates the many ways these victims can be exploited.
Notice we are not just talking about sex trafficking. Other common types include domestic servitude, agricultural work, manufacturing, hotel services, construction, hair and nail services, prostitution, and exotic dancing. This is modern slavery, and it exists in the United States.
Who Are the Vulnerable Populations?
Human trafficking victims can be foreign citizens or Americans. Human traffickers prey on these groups because they are exposed, unprotected, and susceptible to the trafficker’s tactics.
- American Indians/Alaska Natives. This is one of the most vulnerable populations because of significant poverty rates, high numbers of runaway youth, and low levels of law enforcement where these populations live.
- LGBTQ+individuals. Many people find themselves with no family or community support after coming out as LGBTQ+. Some are kicked out of their homes and alienated by the people closest to them, making them easy targets for sex trafficking.
- Undocumented immigrants. People desperate to escape dangerous situations in their home country may hire a group of people to transport them across a border into another country. If migrants do not have enough money, the group may enslave the migrants until they have paid their transport debts.
- Runaway and homeless youth. These children are vulnerable due to their lack of housing, few social connections, and limited resources. They may have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect, which increases their risk of being recruited by a trafficker.
How Can My Workplace Help to Prevent Human Trafficking?
Organizations need to decide what kind of culture they want to nurture, while considering their ethical and moral values. Here are a few steps to take:
Communicate with Employees. If you are a business owner or manager, it’s important that you are aware of any state laws, regulations, or initiatives that apply to your workplace, regarding human trafficking. Many states are beginning to require businesses to build human trafficking awareness with their employees and patrons.
Scrutinize Supply Chain. As a business owner, you research and select vendors for a variety of products to support your business. Be diligent in your discovery process, to ensure your approved vendor list does not include any organizations who participate in or look away from human trafficking.
Recognize Indicators. Help your team understand the red flags and warning signs, as well as the questions to ask potential human trafficking victims, if given the opportunity. This is not an exhaustive list; it’s simply meant to get you thinking. Questions might include:
- Does the person show signs of being denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Does the person have limited freedom of movement?
- Is this person living with their employer?
- Does this person work excessively long hours over long periods of time?
Know How to Report. If you believe someone may be the victim of human trafficking, you should report it immediately. You can call local law enforcement at 911. Or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 24 hours a day, at 1-888-373-7888.
Be a Responsible Citizen.
The issue is bigger than all of us. We all need to work together to solve it. Victims of human trafficking are people. They are someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, or friend. The first step is learning more about the issue, the warning signs, and what actions to take.
Potential Training from HSI
If you recognize the need to take some action in your workplace, HSI has courses in our Business Skills Library that can support these efforts. These courses include:
- What is Human Trafficking? There are many types of human trafficking that occur right here in the United States, and in this course, we’ll go over what those are. We’ll discuss victims — where they’re likely to originate from, why they’re targeted, and how they are lured and enslaved. We’ll also talk about what’s being done to reduce human trafficking, how to recognize it, and what to do if you believe you’re interacting with a victim.
- See Something, Say Something. From cybercrime to human trafficking to workplace violence, we all know the catastrophic damage and pain these crimes can leave in their wake. Yet, many of these situations can be prevented if people speak up and report the unusual activity they witness.
- Florida Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention for Apartment Staff. Under Florida law, as an apartment community employee, you have certain requirements that you and your workplace must adhere to regarding the awareness and prevention of human trafficking.
- Florida Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention for Hotel and Motel Staff. How do you, a worker or manager in a hotel or motel, help prevent this horrible crime? By recognizing the signs of human trafficking, understanding the best practices to protect victims, when you do see them, and by promoting awareness every day in your place of work.
- Ethics for Everyone. In this program, we’ll talk about seven ethical principles and their importance in how you conduct yourself on a daily basis. We’ll also discuss how to know whether you're acting ethically or not.
- Texas Human Trafficking Awareness for Drivers. In this program, we’ll discuss the startling statistics of human trafficking in the state of Texas. We’ll go over why drivers are in a unique position to spot it, and what they should be on the lookout for. Lastly, we’ll cover how to report suspected trafficking, who to report it to, and the information you’ll need to supply.
It’s important to note our Florida Human Trafficking content has been added to an approved list of vendors by the Florida Licensing Bureau, the Division of Hotels & Restaurants, and are approved for use in public lodging establishments.
Part of our mission at HSI is making companies and communities smarter and safer. We are expanding the definition of safety to go beyond the traditional definition that focuses on workplace hazards and OSHA standards. We also want to keep people safe from bullying, discrimination, and harassment. We want to help you create a culture of psychological safety, so people feel safe speaking up, pitching new ideas, or making mistakes. We want to keep people safe from cybersecurity threats, identity theft, and more. If you would like to learn more about our approach, please contact us.