Tuesday, August 20, 2013

EEOC is using labor law to bring civil actions against suspected human traffickers

Annual Meeting Daily Newsletter - ABA Journal

EEOC is using labor law to bring civil actions against suspected human traffickers

by Terry Carter

Efforts to thwart human trafficking in workers has increased significantly in recent years, and the pace will quicken as employment rights intersect with human rights as an enforcement tool, shining a spotlight on employers.

"This is not just a [Justice Department] problem, not just a criminal problem," Robert Canino, a Dallas attorney for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, told the audience Sunday morning at an ABA Annual Meeting program.

Prosecutors sometimes have been stymied by having to prove violations beyond reasonable doubt. But Canino and others figured out that discriminatory practices against groups of workers imported into the United States could be cast differently for civil enforcement. For example, Canino said, sex workers who basically are enslaved are experiencing a form of sexual harassment, albeit extreme.

In cases with horrific facts that were difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the EEOC has been able to bring civil actions requiring only a preponderance of the evidence. The idea didn't take hold at first.

"I thought, wow, we could prove [a case] by 51 percent, more-likely-than-not evidence," Canino said, recalling a meeting in 2000 with representatives from various agencies brought together by the DOJ. At the time, he says, he got no traction in the room.

Now he and others are bringing such cases, as labor law and human rights law join forces.

Read about how employers can battle labor trafficking.

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