Human-Trafficking-for-Labor-An-American-Disgrace.jpg (2149×1159)We’ve all heard of sex trafficking, but labor trafficking? What is that, and how are people trapped and abused after the promise of a job that they actually perform?

Recruiters make promises to people in dire poverty in Latin American, Asian, African, and other poor regions such as “You will become an American citizen. You will have a great, well-paying job. You and your family will no longer be poor.” Promises are broken as hopeful people are smuggled into the country, forced to work illegal hours, and housed in packed dormitories. They pay outrageous fees for this “opportunity” that they are assured they can work off. Pay is routinely stolen, withheld, or docked for illegitimate reasons. These workers are often denied medical care and are seldom provided protective clothing and gear.

The worker is in a strange land usually not knowing the language with a huge debt, no passport or legal document, and no way to get back home. If they attempt to leave, many are threatened with deportation or physical violence, not only to themselves but to loved ones back home.  

Labor trafficking is prevalent in many areas, and the magnitude of the problem needs to be calculated industry by industry. A 2017 research study of 25 industries included three arms of the food industry (restaurants, bars, and agriculture). It should serve as a wake-up call to other industries using immigrant workers. Traveling sales crews, domestic and construction workers, nail salon and massage parlor employees, and other minimum-wage working groups are easy targets for traffickers. Polaris, an organization fighting human trafficking and helping its victims, conducted the study based on phone calls and text messages to its hotline over several years.The report was called a major breakthrough according to the radio station NPR who interviewed Bradley Myles, the CEO of Polaris.

In the food industry alone, twenty percent of the victims were found to be minors. Employers control their slave laborers by confining them to their restaurant or housing them in an often squalid, overcrowded house or apartment where they control their workers’ actions. The employers further increase their profits by charging the victims rent that exceeds fair rent in the area. A 40-hour work week is an unfamiliar concept to most of these workers. Language barriers keep them from comparing notes with employees hired under standard conditions and who know their worker rights.  

Many slave laborers had expected to send money home so their loved ones could have better lives, yet they find themselves strapped with an impossible, often increasing, debt load and declining health and energy as they lose any hope at all of realizing their dreams.  

The pay for slave laborers may appear legitimate if it is explained as piece rate, in other words by the number of items they make, the number of items they sell, or the number of people they serve.  The labor laws are quite specific that they must make minimum wage per day no matter what their output is and that they must be given the legally specified minutes of rest breaks. Usually, the worker puts in far more than eight hours to produce his “quota.” Legally mandated overtime pay is seldom discussed or provided.

Sex slavery is often entwined with labor slavery particularly for women.  Some bars and strip clubs are known to use women, and sometimes men, as unpaid wait staff who provide sexual favors in a back room or after hours. Escort services and massage parlors are often legal fronts for sexual and wage exploitation. These people, doubly victimized, lose their dignity as well as hope for the future. In these industries, especially, women are often controlled with beatings and threats of additional violence.

Once a labor or sex slave is identified, the U.S government offers programs and services to help victims rebuild their lives in the United States.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a law firm dedicated to exposing unethical business practices that corporations and business inflict on others. The expert team is highly motivated to uphold the rights of workers. Contact us if your rights are being violated or if you are aware of abusive practices.

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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