Labor Trafficking

Spotting Labor Trafficking Out on the Road

Tips for identifying and responding to potential labor trafficking

What is labor trafficking?

A crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purpose of compelled labor through force, fraud, or coercion. It involves the denial of a person’s right to freedom and basic dignity. Labor trafficking is a crime under federal and international law; it is also a crime in every state in the United States.

Human Trafficking vs. Human Smuggling


• A crime against a border
• Transportation-based
• People who are smuggled are free to leave, change jobs, etc.
• Facilitates illegal entry of a person(s) from one country to another
• Requires the crossing of an international border.


• A crime against a person
• Exploitation-based
• Requires the elements of force, fraud or coercion
• Requires the person to be engaged in some form of compelled (forced) “work”
• Does not require movement of the victim
• Does not require crossing an international border
• Not free to leave

Individuals who are smuggled into a country are very vulnerable to human trafficking, and there are situations in which a human smuggling case could become human trafficking. For example, the smuggler raises the smuggling fee after the individual arrives in the country illegally and then requires some form of compelled labor to pay it.

labor trafficking sweatshop
Labor Trafficking Sectors

Sectors/Places Where You May Encounter Labor Trafficking

• Agriculture, forestry, logging
• Leisure/hospitality
• Personal/domestic care
• Manufacturing
• Construction
• Janitorial services
• Traveling sales crews/forced panhandling
• Landscaping
• Illicit drug production/sales

Labor Trafficking Indicators

Victims of labor trafficking can be of any gender, children, or adults. Victims can be U.S. citizens or foreign nationals. Because you are out on the road and in a number of communities every day, you can play a vital role in identifying potential cases of labor trafficking and alerting authorities. Here is what to look for when you are visiting drop-off/ pick-up locations or while on the road:

• A highly controlled and/or hazardous, unsafe work setting
• A work site that has heavy or excessive security measures that seem out of place
• A work site where worker housing is provided on-site and appears sub-standard, unsafe and closely monitored
• Workers at drop-off/pick up locations that avoid or are prevented from speaking to you
• If workers speak with you, they exhibit abnormal or concerning behavior including, but not limited to:

o Being fearful, anxious, submissive, nervous or tense
o Avoiding eye contact, speaking softly
o Giving you responses that seem scripted or rehearsed
o Expressing a fear of law enforcement

• Individuals you encounter are in poor physical health, appear malnourished, and show signs of abuse or lack of medical care
• Individuals you encounter have little knowledge of where they are working and/or do not have a sense of time
• If an individual speaks to you and mentions:

o They work excessively long hours and are provided few or no breaks
o Fees or deductions are made from their paychecks for housing, food, work-related equipment, etc.
o Withholding of identification documents (e.g. passport, driver’s license, etc.)
o Threats of, or actual verbal, physical or sexual abuse by an employer

How You Can Help

1. Educate yourself and others about labor trafficking. Share this information about labor trafficking with your colleagues and others in the transportation industry.
2. See it, report it. If you believe you have encountered a situation of labor trafficking, report the information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888). Trust your gut; you don’t have to be 100 percent certain – leave that to the experts.
3. Start by believing. If in doubt of yours or the potential victim’s safety, call the hotline or law enforcement. Do not put anyone in harm’s way. If you find yourself able to safely engage in conversation with a potential trafficking victim, you may want to ask a few questions to gauge the situation. For example,
• Do you feel safe at your workplace?
• Is the job different from what you expected or were promised?
• Do you owe a debt to your employer?
• Do you feel you can leave your job if you wanted to?
• Are you in possession of your own legal documents or identification?

labor trafficking construction cement workers

Make the Call, Save Lives.

Colorado Human Trafficking Council (CHTC)