Labor-Trafficking-is-as-Prevalent-as-Sex-Trafficking.jpg (2149×1159)Sex trafficking is alive and well. This isn’t a shocking statement. Even in America, we accept that such industries exist and even thrive. It’s horrifying. Nevertheless, it’s easy enough to make sure you aren’t personally supporting such a thing.

But what about labor trafficking? This is when people are forced to engage in labor practices that are typically inhumanely taxing. What if the labor used to serve or make your meal, harvest your food, or produce your dairy were also the result of modern-day slavery?

This might be a little more likely than we’d like to think. It’s impossible to overstate the reach of these activities. Even in America, it’s insanely easy to indirectly incentivize the misery of those on the hamster wheel of indentured servitude.

Surprisingly, labor trafficking may actually be more prevalent than trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. If you’ve been involved first hand, you don’t need to be told this.

However, here’s something to think about. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that while 64% of trafficking victims are exploited for labor purposes, only 19% being sexually exploited.

How Traffickers Operate

How is this possible?

Victims are tempted with promising jobs that end up being significantly more taxing and less profitable than expected. They also tend to be young adults, making them even more vulnerable.

They work cruelly long hours and languish in unbelievably cramped living quarters. They are often indebted to their traffickers, forced to pay rent for living spaces that are hardly livable.

Contrary to what’s typically believed, victims can hail from all parts of the world, not simply lesser developed countries. In fact, 1/3rd of victims actually come from the United States! Other common home regions include Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

They’ve been coerced both physically and psychologically. They often spend their days around upstanding citizens that would certainly alert authorities if they only knew something was amiss.

It can be hard to imagine such crimes could take place in such plain view, but they do. Labor trafficking is big business. It’s also a global problem. In America, Polaris estimates that it spans twenty-five industries, with each requiring separate and unique action.

It’s even found in high-end, reputable establishments.

It might seem impossible to hide such a significant crime, but it isn’t. With the incentive of $150 billion a year, traffickers go to great lengths to conceal their misdeeds.

Along the way, victims have often lost their identity, families, passports, and money. They likely do not speak the predominant language of their host country. It’s possible they don’t even know who their traffickers are.  

Victims work in a wide swath of diverse industries. They may work in hotels, restaurants, factories, landscaping, and forestry. They may also be used in carnivals, food trucks, janitorial services, buffets, golf courses, swimming pools, amusement parks, construction sites, the health and beauty industry, pornography, and prostitution.

It’s not as simple as refusing to directly support these industries. This is because the U.S. Department of Labor says that “148 goods from 76 countries” are the result of either forced or child labor.

The ILO estimates that trafficking currently claims 24.9 million victims. Are you one of them?

You Are Owed a Fair Wage!

An individual makes piece-rate pay when they’re paid according to however many tasks they complete. For example, someone might be paid according to however many pieces of fruit they pick or however many cars they service.

Those paid piece-rate pay can be especially vulnerable to trafficking. Their unique pay necessitates unique laws that may be purposely circumvented or ignored by traffickers.

Nonetheless, these employees are still owed a fair wage. In California specifically, employees are also entitled to be paid for rest time.  This is the period between completing paid-for tasks.

Individuals also must still be paid according to the minimum wage. This means that if they do not make minimum wage for the number of hours they’ve worked, an employer must pay the difference to ensure they do.

At Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we understand the nuances of labor fraud cases. We hate unethical business practices as much as we love securing justice for those that are taken advantage of by their employers. If this piece reminds you of you or someone you know or love, we urge you to give us a call. We are a boutique law firm with the attention to detail to ensure your case will be handled professionally and passionately. Give us a call. We’re eager to fight on your behalf.

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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