Today, two hundred and fifty years after the American Civil War ended, there are more human slaves in the world than at any other time in history. According to multiple sources, there are at least 40 million slaves in the world today, and over 60,000 of these individuals live in the United States. About three-fourths of these people are girls and women, as the 40 million figure includes those forced into labor and those forced into marriages. The amount of time in forced labor or marriage varies, from a few days to a few years to an indefinite period.
Slavery has always been an awful institution, but it may have gotten worse. The price of a slave has dropped dramatically since the American Civil War. Back then, a slave might work for a master for two decades before the master recouped his investment. Today, the break-even period may be only a few years, so modern masters have even less incentive to take care of the people they keep in bondage.
Law enforcement officials do their best, but they only help a tiny fraction of the human trafficking victims in Georgia. So, as in many other areas of life, attorneys must fill in the gap.
The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, an extremely broad law, makes it a criminal offense to “knowingly benefit, financially or by receiving anything of value,” from human trafficking. Slavery victims may be entitled to substantial compensation under the TVPA. Victims must prove that the modern-day master:
- Used or threatened force or restraint,
- Harmed or threatened to harm the victim or another person, or
- Led the victim to believe that s/he would be seriously harmed if s/he failed to work.
Many victims have claimed damages under the TVPA, and there have been several multi-million dollar out-of-court settlements.
Georgia lawmakers also passed an anti-human trafficking statute, but unfortunately, it is not quite as broad as the TVPA, because it does not include the “receiving anything of value” clause. Common law remedies may be available as well, such as false imprisonment (if the victim was not free to leave), battery (if the slaveowner hit the victim), and unjust enrichment (if the slaveowner realized a financial gain because of the forced labor).
Special rules apply to forced agricultural workers. Many corporations, like Trader Joe’s and Taco Bell, have agreed that they would only buy tomatoes and other agricultural products from an employee of a corporate grower. We applaud those steps, but more needs to be done. Other corporations should step up to the plate and help fight this problem.
Human trafficking in any form is utterly deplorable, which is why the experienced Atlanta litigation attorneys at Butler Tobin are committed to doing our part to end this practice. Call us today for a free consultation.