The-Legal-Status-of-Human-Trafficking-for-Labor.jpg (2149×1159)Labor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. People are brought into the United States with the promise of employment. When they arrive, they find conditions are not as promised. They usually find that the promise is false and they are forced to perform labor with little or no remuneration under the threat of arrest and deportation or under the threat of physical assault.


Human trafficking is an international problem on a global scale.

A 2017 report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that nearly 25 million people are trapped into modern-day slavery every year, 64 percent are exploited for labor, 19 percent are sexually exploited. Frequently, trafficked labor is forced to work as servants, farm workers, or factory labor without days off and under substandard living conditions. According to Human Rights First, 19 percent of victims are trafficked into the sex trade. The majority (71 percent) are women and girls. Human trafficking can be profitable, earning profits of about $150 billion dollars a year for importers. The Asian-Pacific region imports 15.4 million victims of human trafficking (64 percent). The Americas import 1.2 million per year (5 percent).


There is a long history to this form of labor extortion. In colonial and pre-colonial times, property owners with large tracts of land needed cheap labor to care for their homes and farms. At that time, sea passage to America was expensive for all but the wealthy. In the early 1600s, the Virginia Company devised a system to attract workers. These indentured workers became as vital a part of the colonial economy as slaves were over the next centuries. In exchange for their sea passage to America, food, and accommodation, workers would indenture themselves, contract to work without pay for four to seven years. If they survived the difficult conditions of indentured servitude, they would be freed and often given land. However, contracts could be extended as a punishment for misbehavior.

Legal Protection.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) (as amended in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2013) defines labor trafficking as recruiting, harboring, transporting, or obtaining a person for labor or services by fraud, force or coercion. The Justice for victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) added new amendments in 2015. JVTA sets up a fund to provide money and material aid victims of trafficking.

United States Title 18 section 1589 makes it unlawful to hold a person in “debt solitude” (or “peonage”), prohibits using force, threat of force, or threat of legal coercion to compel people to work against their will. Involuntary servitude must be directly tied to payment of a real debt. Forced labor is also illegal under Title 18, as is sex trafficking of children. In the revised law, the crime does not require that victims be transported. The law addresses the means by which victims are held in servitude, means like psychological coercion, trickery, and the seizure of documents like passports.

There are both state and federal laws criminalizing human trafficking. It is a crime in every state. In California’s statute, for instance, human trafficking is a felony punishable by 3 to 5 years in state prison. Trafficking in minors carries a state prison term of from 4 to 8 years. Federal penalties vary from 10 years to life in prison.

Weak Enforcement.

According to the 2017 State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, there were only 14,895 prosecutions and only 9,071 convictions across the world in 2016. This out of 25 million incidents. Detailed data on human trafficking in the United States is hard to get. A hotline established in 2014 by U.S. Government for trafficking victims received 21,000 calls. During that time, the Justice Department secured 184 convictions for trafficking. According to the 2017 State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, there were only 14,895 prosecutions and only 9,071 convictions in 2016. This out of 25 million incidents.

Advocates for victims’ rights say that the work that victims do, for the most part, is perfectly legal, like cleaning stores or picking fruit. The working conditions of victims are often not visible. Many victims actually enter the country on legal visas on a temporary basis to fill real job vacancies. They are often told by their employers that efforts are being made to get permanent residency status (on condition that they don’t complain). Often the guest worker visa system itself can leave workers vulnerable because the H-2 visa, in effect, binds the worker to the employer. The worker fears deportation more than the employer fears prison.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy are a team of collaborative lawyers who work together on every aspect of your case. We view each case as a partnership between ourselves and you, the client. If you are being treated unfairly or under an illegal working arrangement, please contact us.

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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