Human trafficking is an unfortunate and rarely discussed part of society in the United States. While many believe the practice is rare and only occurs in other countries, this is simply not the case. Today, there are more victims of human trafficking or forced labor than at any other point in history. The Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index (2018) estimates 45.8 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, 71% of which are women.
Human trafficking is much more common in the United States than most would expect. The Human Trafficking Hotline identified over 74,000 victims in 2019. The highest number of these cases came from California, Texas, Florida, New York and Ohio.
Victims of human trafficking move quickly and often spend nights in hotels/motels discreetly and secretly. Captors are aided by the trend of increased automation. Online check-in/out, third party online reservation systems, non-mandatory registration identification and guest privacy policies have made it increasingly difficult for hotel management and staff to identify and report suspicious activities. These factors make developing thorough procedures for reporting and training staff on the signs of human trafficking an important task for all organizations within the hospitality industry.
Human traffickers also operate in plain sight, taking advantage of legitimate businesses to hide their illegal activities. In a large court case, US v. Giant Labor Solutions, a housekeeping subcontractor used false information to acquire work visas and bring victims into the United States. These visas quickly expired, causing the victims to become illegal residents in the US. Using the threat of deportation, traffickers forced victims to work as desk staff, housekeepers, and even in the hotel marketing department. Traffickers profited by deducting large fees from their paychecks.
Identifying Human Trafficking
While all situations are nuanced and unique, there are red flags that may indicate human trafficking is occurring. Train your employees on these indicators from The Human Trafficking Hotline to facilitate a safe environment.
Developing a Policy
It is imperative to develop a robust policy to reduce your risk of exposure to human trafficking and forced labor. Consult with your legal counsel to ensure your policy meets the minimum criteria of federal and local governance. Your company’s policy should include, at minimum:
- A statement explaining your commitment to human rights and the desire to reduce the risk of trafficking in your organization.
- Required training on indicators and reporting procedures.
- Hiring policies including background checks and vetting of third party hiring agencies.
- Identified areas of risk for your organization. Do you have migrant workers on your staff? Do you operate in a high-risk region? Do you operate in an area with a large event that may cause an increased risk of trafficking?
Reporting and Responding to a Situation
Once your organization has enacted a formal policy, spread awareness on the subject and trained staff to identify warning signs, the next step is developing a procedure for reporting and responding. The basic elements of a reporting procedure should include:
- In emergency situations (threats of violence, physical assault, emergency medical needs, etc.) call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim of your suspicions.
- Notify management, security or local law enforcement as necessary.
- Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).