The conversation around slavery in the United States is usually in reference to the legalized institution of slavery in our past. However, slave labor is still a prevalent issue in the underbelly of America’s economy.

The Polaris Project is a research institution focused on tracking and remedying the many forms of slavery in the United States. According to data they have collected, one of the prevalent forms of human trafficking that is quite difficult to track is human trafficking and slavery for labor. This is predominantly in the form of food-related labor, such as agriculture, restaurant, food truck, and bar employment. These forms of employment are often legally valid on paper. The illegal component comes through in the intentional miss-management of employees and negligence of their legal rights.

How Labor Trafficking Can Appear Legal On the Surface

Most often labor trafficking begins with the promise of a better life and greater opportunity in the United States to individuals from poorer places like Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia. There’s the assurance of making more money and potentially earning US citizenship. Traffickers will unashamedly tout “The American Dream” and prey on people’s need and hopes.

This kind of slavery will seem sound. The work itself is not illicit in any way—for instance, being a dishwasher in a restaurant or operating a fryer in a food truck. Two-thirds of these types of employees will have a legitimate work visa that their employers have helped them to obtain to work in the United States.

However, what justifies an employment situation as slavery has to do with whether or not the employer is honoring their employees legal rights to a work-rest balance with due compensation.

What Exactly Constitutes as Labor Trafficking and Slavery?

Labor traffickers will not honor an employee’s rights to due compensation for a balance of work-and-rest. For example, whenever an employee is working a nine-hour work day, they are legally entitled to set paid breaks for predetermined time increments within that workday, according to the laws established for that specific state. Employees do not have the right to demand overtime work with the threat of unemployment, nor to exceed hourly limits in a work week without due overtime pay rates as compensation. If your employer is making unlawful demands and threats in this regard, it could be a sign of human trafficking for labor.

Often traffickers will be unfair when it comes to salary and employment fees. Labor traffickers will potentially take unreasonable or unexpected fees out of an employee’s wages, take an employee’s passport from them, or if they are not a legal immigrant threaten them with deportation if they do not obey the demands of the employer or fulfill on the expected the workload.

If an employer is providing housing as part of the arrangement, they may be excessively withholding money from an employee’s wages to pay for the housing, or else they may have placed their workers in squalid and less-that-humane living conditions to save money.

If You Suspect You Are a Victim of Labor Trafficking, We Can Help

Being a victim of human trafficking can leave you feeling powerless, especially if you are just one voice among many who feel threatened with deportation, unemployment, and other personal risk. If you suspect that you are a victim of labor trafficking, there is hope.

Our team at Aiman-Smith & Marcy can provide you with the personal legal assistance that you need in order to stand up to your human traffickers, protect your human rights, and receive reasonable compensation. No one should be afraid of seeking legal justice for being taken advantage of in the form of slave labor, no matter how they are threatened by their employer. Contact our team today for an initial legal consultation, and to learn more about your options.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986