Human-Trafficking-and-Labor-Exploitation.jpg (4297×2317)With promises of a better life, legal immigration and better pay, unsuspecting impoverished people, as well as those suffering psychological, emotional, or economic hardships, or political instability, are lured, then smuggled into a deplorable life of servitude by human traffickers.  They come from some of the most depressed areas of the world seeking to improve their lot in life, only to fall prey to these traffickers and become entrapped in this modern-day form of slavery.

Human trafficking differs from people smuggling. Smugglers charge people a fee for their service, then set them free once they reach their destination. Human trafficking for labor exploitation involves the recruitment, harboring and/or transportation of people and families into situations of “slavery” using violence, coercion, and deception, and in some cases, drugs.

Where these people are promised better wages, all too often they get paid paltry piece-rate wages and are then cheated out of this pay, being docked or deducted for “advances” given as “seed money” by their traffickers to start a new life. Their documents are taken away until this debt is satisfied, and often are not returned at all.

Some victims are hidden behind locked doors in brothels and factories. In other cases, victims are in plain view and may interact with community members, but the widespread lack of awareness and understanding of trafficking leads to low levels of victim identification by the people who most often encounter them.

According to a report by the Polaris Group, an organization involved in fighting human trafficking and helping survivors,

…human trafficking for exploitation doesn’t necessarily cross international borders; human trafficking occurs at a national level, or even within one community.”

Core Difficulties in Fighting Human Trafficking

There are many forms of human trafficking for exploitation; forced labor, domestic servitude, forced begging, forced marriage, forced criminality,  prostitution, and forced organ removal. Trafficking involves a conscious and willful decision deceive, coerce, and enslave people, exploiting them into situations of indebtedness with no escape.

Human trafficking generates billions of dollars in profits annually, second only to drug trafficking. Victims of this “hidden crime” rarely come forward due to fear of the traffickers or law enforcement and language barriers being the two biggest reasons. The emotional trauma may be so great that many don’t even identify themselves as victims.

There are several myths and misconceptions about human trafficking. For example, one common misconception is that trafficking involves transporting victims across borders; although this does occur, it does not always apply. Human trafficking for labor exploitation can occur domestically as well. In situations involving children, just by bringing them into exploitive situations constitutes trafficking; coercion and violence need not be present.

Even though human trafficking for sexual exploitation gets more attention, the majority of human trafficking is for labor exploitation.

Here are some estimated statistics of human trafficking by The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

The Polaris Report goes on to say that …

“Because human trafficking is so diverse…you can’t fight it all at once and there are no single, silver bullet solutions. You have to…fight it type by type,” Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, told reporters…”We see this report as a major breakthrough in the field.”

The Polaris report is considered the largest data set ever compiled on human trafficking in the U.S.; of the 32,000 reports of human trafficking, over 10,000 of the reports were for labor exploitation. This report is considered a “game changer”; collecting information through hotline calls is helping prosecutors identify and disrupt labor trafficking networks.

Frontiers Of Human Trafficking

Workers — mostly men from Central America and Mexico— often were lured with lies of an hourly rate; however, once in the U.S., they were paid much lower piece-rate wages. Many reported being denied protective gear and medical care, were constantly threatened with deportation and forced to live in repulsive conditions; some were even threatened by the human traffickers that they would injure or kill the workers’ families back home.

The law firm of Aikman-Smith & Marcy, located in Oakland, California, firmly believes in enforcing the whistleblower statutes as established by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) These laws are designed to protect you from recrimination and your employer is not permitted to take adverse action against you including blacklisting, demoting, firing, denying promotions, disciplining, intimidating or threatening you in retaliation for reporting the company’s illegal actions or cooperating with authorities in an investigation.

If you have any questions regarding whistleblowing, or if you know someone who is a victim of or is involved in human trafficking for labor, etc., call Aiman-Smith & Marcy today at 510-817-2711.

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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