Domestic help and human trafficking: What to know

Many people deeply misunderstand what “human trafficking” means because the phrase has become popularly associated with the abduction and sexual abuse of young women.

In reality, the charge applies to a number of complex situations – and many charges arise over the misuse or abuse of domestic workers.

Many victims don’t realize they’re being trafficked

The authorities believe there’s somewhat of an epidemic where human trafficking and domestic workers are concerned, particularly among immigrants (especially when those immigrants are here without proper documentation).

Often, the people who are being exploited don’t realize that they’re actually victims due to things like:

  • Cultural expectations that put a lot of power in an employer’s hands, leading the domestic employee to believe they have few or no rights other than what their employer grants them (especially if they were sponsored to the U.S. by that employer).
  • Language barriers that make it difficult for a domestic worker to express their wishes or negotiate effectively with their employers for better working conditions.
  • The belief that they have no other choice since they are immigrants and that they will face immediate deportation if they displease an employer.

Human trafficking is any situation where someone is being coerced or defrauded into giving away their labor or bodies. Many well-heeled employers have found themselves under investigation for trafficking after a domestic employee complains (fairly or not) about their working conditions or wages or because the worker claims that their employer took their visa or other identifying documents.

Generally speaking, it’s always wise to vet your domestic help carefully, pay them fairly and keep good records about their working hours and wages. Just the same, you may find yourself under investigation or facing charges of human trafficking. If that happens, immediately take steps to protect your rights, your reputation and your future.