From December 2007 to December 2017, the Polaris-operated National Human Trafficking Hotline learned about approximately 8,000 labor trafficking cases. The highest number of cases – almost 23 percent – involved domestic work. In human trafficking prosecutions, the highest number of criminal and civil cases for labor trafficking in 2017 were domestic work-related.
The fact that domestic workers make up the greatest percentage of labor trafficking cases recorded by the National Hotline can be attributed in part to this workforce’s near total lack of legal protections – ways to get justice, get back pay or otherwise get help before a situation becomes intolerable or escalates into trafficking. Domestic workers are explicitly excluded from some labor protections and de facto left out of others. This plays out in practical, tangible ways but also in shaping norms and attitudes that lead to exploitation and abuse. Our legal framework implies that these people do not matter as much as others, which is a dangerous message to send to employers.