Attorney General Works to Raise Awareness about Labor Trafficking

Helping municipal leaders to identify signs of labor trafficking...
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

BOSTON – As part of her ongoing effort to combat human trafficking in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey announced an initiative this week to raise awareness among local officials about forced labor in communities across the state.    

AG Healey’s Fair Labor and Human Trafficking Divisions coordinated a mailing from the AG’s Office to all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns asking that municipal government leaders share information about forced labor with their employees who may come into contact with victims. Municipal employees, such as code inspectors, compliance officers, law enforcement and school personnel, may be uniquely positioned to observe a forced labor situation as they go about their daily responsibilities serving their communities. The AG’s Office asks these potential first-line observers to learn the signs of labor trafficking and how they can report the crime.

 “This initiative will bring more local resources to our efforts to identify and stop labor trafficking in Massachusetts,” said AG Healey. “With more eyes and ears, we can shed light on this exploitation and hold perpetrators accountable.”

            AG Healey’s initiative builds on recommendations in a report from the Massachusetts Interagency Human Trafficking Policy Task Force’s Subcommittee on Labor Trafficking, which recommended increasing labor trafficking awareness and response training for professionals who may interact with victims. Labor trafficking can be difficult to recognize, and local officials are key to identifying victims. The AG’s letter provides some suggestions for how municipalities can actively engage on the issue:

  • Learn the signs of labor trafficking. The AG’s Office has compiled a reference sheet that provides some of the potential indicators of labor trafficking, such as workers who live with employers or appear to lack control of their own finances or their identification documents.

 

  • Train employees about labor trafficking. The AG’s Office’s labor trafficking website has important information about what government, businesses, and consumers can do to recognize the warning signs, reduce demand, and use their buying power to thwart human trafficking. The AG’s Office will also host a webinar on July 25 to help municipal officials identify and combat labor trafficking.

 

  • Ensure vendors are not a part of a labor trafficking supply chain. The AG’s Office suggests that municipalities can require vendors to certify their compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations related to sex trafficking and forced labor. In 2016, the AG’s Office made this commitment along with a zero-tolerance policy for all personnel. The labor trafficking website provides sample language that municipalities can use—the same standard contract term the AG’s Office uses in its own vendor contracts.

 

AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the payment of wages, including prevailing wage, minimum wage, earned sick time and overtime laws. The Human Trafficking Division is a multidisciplinary team dedicated to prosecuting and preventing human trafficking through law enforcement efforts and policy development. Staff members also conduct outreach and training for law enforcement and other community members statewide. Investigators in both divisions have received specialized labor trafficking training.    

Anyone who is a victim of forced services or has observed potential signs of trafficking should report a tip to the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888 or texting 233733. Reports can also be emailed to [email protected] and submitted online at https://humatraffickinghotline.org/report-trafficking. Non-payment of wage complaints can be filed at www.mass./gov/ago/wagetheft. The AG’s Fair Labor Division staffs a hotline for questions related to the Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws, including questions about labor trafficking, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 617-727-3465. 

This matter is being handled by AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division Chief of Investigations Heather Rowe and Human Trafficking Division Chief Beth Keeley. 


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