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  • Will Harty

Human Trafficking Lawsuits against Complicit Hotel Chains




Human trafficking is a widespread problem in the U.S.; it's not just happening abroad. The United States is home to an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 victims of labor and sex trafficking annually, and many of these victims are forced into prostitution or other forms of labor at hotels. In fact, a study conducted in 2012 by the University of California Los Angeles found that nearly three-quarters of women who had escaped from sexual slavery had been trafficked through hotels. And while some hotel chains have taken steps toward becoming more aware of human trafficking in their establishments, others have yet to take action.


The hotel industry has been facing increased scrutiny over its role in human trafficking. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by the Polaris Project found that nearly half of all calls to their hotline were related to incidents at hotels and motels. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State released a report that reported that over 50% of all human trafficking occurs in hotels and motels across the country. In short, hotel chains are no strangers to the problem of human trafficking.


In 2000, Congress passed the Tracking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which criminalizes human trafficking. In 2003, Congress reauthorized TVPRA, and added a civil cause of action allowing victims to sue traffickers for money damages under 18 U.S.C. § 1595. Under § 1595, victims can file suits for claims involving forced labor, peonage, involuntary servitude, and sex trafficking and recover actual damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.


In 2008, Congress reauthorized the TVPRA again. The 2008 amendments expanded the right of action by creating a penalty for those who benefit from ventures that engage in human trafficking. This allows victims to file civil suits not just against traffickers, but against anyone—including Hotel chains—who “knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has engaged in an act in violation of this chapter.” 18. U.S.C. § 1595(a).


Later this month, we celebrate Juneteenth, a commemoration of the ending of legalized slavery in the United States, but 157 years later, thousands of people are still being trafficked in our country. If you are aware of a human trafficking enterprise, please immediately reach out to law enforcement. If you have been a victim of human trafficking, please contact us at (757) 568-9633 or info@hartyjewell.com. It is time to end slavery in the US.

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