Labor Trafficking in the US

Exploitation in agriculture becomes trafficking when the employer uses force, fraud and/or coercion to maintain control over the worker and to cause the worker to believe that he or she has no other choice.

Traffickers often threaten foreign national workers with arrest and deportation, even workers who have the legal right to work in the United States.

Victims of trafficking may be found in any industry with a demand for cheap labor and a lack of rigorous monitoring.

Labor trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally.

Labor traffickers—including labor recruiters, contractors, and employers—use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many different industries. In 2013, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, received reports of 929 labor trafficking cases inside the United States. Find more hotline statistics here.

U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, and children can be victims of labor trafficking. Immigration status, recruitment debt, isolation, poverty, and a lack of strong labor protections are just some of the vulnerabilities that can lead to labor trafficking. Common types of labor trafficking in the United States include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farmworkers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions. Labor trafficking has also been reported in door-to-door sales crews, carnivals, and health and beauty services.

Victims of labor trafficking must frequently work long hours for little to no pay. Their employers exert such physical or psychological control – including debt bondage – that the victim believes they have no other choice but to continue working for that employer.

Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 14.2 million people trapped in forced labor in industries including agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing.

Learn more about Labor Trafficking, including specific details around venues where labor trafficking has been found, at

NHTRC-module National Human Trafficking Resource Center Report Human Trafficking Access Trainings Human Trafficking Information & Resources

Client Quotes

"Thanks to Polaris Project, I have a job, a home, and many friends that help me when I need it. I am making a life of my own."


- Survivor of Labor Trafficking & Client of Polaris