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Part 2: Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking is defined under the Florida State statute on human trafficking.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign defines labor trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, peonage (where someone is held against their will to pay off a debt), debt bondage, or slavery.

News Report

Recruiting Tactics for Labor Trafficking

How do perpetrators find their victims?

The chart below describes some of the most common ways that traffickers recruit victims for labor.

Recruiting Tactic


Posing as legitimate staffing agencies

Job-seekers sometimes rely on staffing agencies to obtain temporary or temporary-to-permanent work. Traffickers sometimes advertise themselves as staffing agencies or experts who can assist victims in finding employment. In these cases, the jobs promised never materialize (or are very different from the job advertised), and the victim is forced to work off the debt to the fraudulent staffing agency. The paycheck never materializes, or is far less than what was promised.

Fraudulent travel agencies

Both domestically and internationally, travelers are exploited by traffickers who run fraudulent travel agencies that offer very cheap vacations to popular destinations, which usually double as hot spots for human trafficking.

Fraudulent job ads

Some traffickers place fraudulent job ads, or hand out flyers for open interviews in high-trafficking areas. They may employ the use of social media to recruit “interviewees,” and often complete an interview to learn about the victims in order to target those who are most vulnerable. Many people are caught up in these schemes out of desperation. They just needed a job.

Marriage brokers and/or matchmakers abroad

Sometimes called mail-order brides, these victims are usually under the impression that they are going to a different country to marry a resident of that country. However, in these instances, the new “bride” is exploited for domestic work, often in connection with some kind of sexual exploitation.

Methods of Control for Labor Trafficking

EMS personnel should know the methods of control that traffickers commonly use to ensure that victims do not escape. Victims often do not openly say that they need help, because they are being controlled. Perpetrators use the following means of controlling victims:

  • Debt bondage (e.g. telling victims they owe recruitment fees or other costs, which must be repaid)
  • Withholding food (e.g. nearly starving victims, or tying meals to a certain level of production)
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Constant surveillance
  • Deceit (lying about when the victim will be released)

When victims come to the United States from other countries, traffickers use other tactics to control them:

  • Confiscation of passports or other identification
  • Threatening deportation or arrest for reaching out to authorities
  • Retaliation by family members in country of origin (e.g. threatening violence or death to those left behind in another country)

Common Labor Trafficking Locations and Businesses

There are certain industries and locations in which it is easier to hide the fact that exploited people are working; these include:

  • Door-to-door sales crews
  • Domestic labor (e.g. housekeeping, either in private homes or hotels, or work as a nanny)
  • Agricultural labor (e.g. crop-picking)
  • Food processing factories
  • Construction and landscaping
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Nail salons and spas

Remember, many of these businesses are legitimate and are not involved in trafficking. However, analysis of trafficking data reveals that some of these businesses are used for trafficking.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that in 2016 the top industries for labor trafficking were domestic work (18.5%), agriculture (11.7%), traveling sales crews (9.4%), restaurants/food services (6.8%), and health and beauty services (4.2%).

Sponsored by the

The Human Trafficking Project was supported by Award No. VF004 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, Sponsored by the Institute for Family Violence Studies and the State of Florida.