Prosecuting Labor Trafficking

Posted: 4 Dec 2019 Last revised: 8 Dec 2019

See all articles by Annie Smith

Annie Smith

University of Arkansas - School of Law

Date Written: November 18, 2019


Most law enforcement efforts concerning human trafficking focus on sex trafficking. Labor trafficking remains a devastating yet under-prosecuted crime. The failure to prosecute it has severe consequences for trafficked individuals and those vulnerable to it. Without state intervention, traffickers are more likely to control and abuse increasing numbers of workers. Trafficked workers risk ongoing harm and fear. In the absence of successful prosecutions, survivors cannot readily access restitution or the relative peace of mind that can come from knowing their traffickers are being held accountable.

This article comprehensively examines the federal prosecutions of labor trafficking. Informed by observations of anti-trafficking advocates, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors, the article offers possible reasons for the ongoing and widespread failure to prosecute labor trafficking. It then proposes strategies to increase prosecutions.

Keywords: human trafficking, labor trafficking, worker exploitation, prosecutorial discretion, workplace rights

JEL Classification: k31, k42

Suggested Citation

Smith, Annie, Prosecuting Labor Trafficking (November 18, 2019). South Carolina Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Annie Smith (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - School of Law ( email )

260 Waterman Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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