Labor trafficking is a form of human trafficking that exploits people into bonded labor, forced labor, or child labor. When people from other countries want to come to America with a promise of a better life, they sometimes enter an agreement with people to bring them into America illegally. This illegal status automatically puts these immigrants at a disadvantage if they are harmed or discriminated against once they reach America. If these illegal immigrants are the victims of crime or exploitation, they fear being sent back to their home country or they fear that their loved ones back home may be harmed if they report employers who have wronged them.
In California, the Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF), which is under the direction of the Department of Industrial Relations is responsible for ensuring that employers follow labor, safety and health, licensing, and payroll tax laws and do not advantage of any employee—including workers who are in the state and the country illegally. All workers have basic rights to a minimum wage and safe working conditions.
In 2017 agricultural employers paid penalties of more than $150,000 in fines due to violations discovered by LETF inspectors, and employers in the construction field paid more than $2 million in penalties. These fines can stem from working outside when the temperature was too hot, not allowing enough rest time, and other violations of labor laws. The LETF is charged with ensuring that all workers are treated fairly and not taken advantage of, regardless of their citizenship status. This includes the protection of children who, if they are not in the country legally, may be forced to work the same hours as adults, which is illegal.
Another way that people are taken advantage of is by paying them less than their legal right because they are in the country illegally. The minimum wage for employees who work in places with 26 or more employees is $11 an hour. For those with 25 or fewer, the minimum wage is $10.50. Employers often believe they can get away with paying illegal immigrants less because the victim may be concerned they will be deported if they speak to the authorities. An immigrant may also be forced to work without a break in violation of the law, or they may be forced to work while ill in violation of the law. Even though retaliation for reporting these incidents of illegal labor activities is also illegal, many workers are frightened for the own freedom.
Illegal immigrants may also be paid unfairly if they work in a piece-rate industry. Some illegal aliens are forced to work until they accomplished an unrealistically high goal, and often they are not allowed to rest, are forced to work when ill, no matter the temperature and other conditions. If they do not work and do not accomplish their piece-work goal, they may not be paid at all—in violation of the law.
Unless they report their illegal working conditions, these workers may be stuck in conditions similar to these for years and they may feel entirely powerless to do anything about it. The people who brought them to America may know where their family back home lives. They may owe their smugglers an exorbitant amount of money that keeps them tethered to jobs with unfair working conditions.
If you are a victim of unfair labor practices and have been afraid to seek help because of your citizenship status, contact Aiman-Smith & Marcy for help. We focus on helping people by eliminating unethical business practices. We fight for those who seek our help and are dedicated to upholding the rights of our clients.