Florida's anti-trafficking maze: navigating corporate accountability and complex impacts

Posted 1/1/24

In recent times, heightened awareness of human trafficking has led to legal ...

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Florida's anti-trafficking maze: navigating corporate accountability and complex impacts


In recent times, heightened awareness of human trafficking has led to legal measures that hold individuals and businesses accountable for their involvement, whether intentional or inadvertently. According to the Trafficking Victim Protection Act, 18 USC 1595 (a), stipulates that those engaging in transactions with victims of human trafficking may be deemed guilty of the offense and held civilly liable.

While Jeffrey Epstein's notorious case is widely known for his crimes against young girls, what often escapes public attention is the ongoing pursuit of damages against his estate and associated entities. Financial giants like JP Morgan Chase, compelled to settle for hundreds of millions due to their ties to Epstein, highlight the extension of legal repercussions to various industries. The enduring consequences of Epstein's actions are set to reverberate across multiple sectors for years to come.

For business owners, irrespective of their industry, it is crucial to recognize the potential legal ramifications of engaging with victims of human trafficking. The prevalence of human trafficking in the Okeechobee area is more significant than commonly realized. One example is Immokalee being identified in 2018 by CNN, naming it “Ground Zero for Human Trafficking.” Although strides have been made in the agriculture industry to improve working conditions and prevent trafficking, legal liability persists for all industries under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

The real threat to businesses lies not only in the risk of inadvertently employing or transacting with trafficked individuals but also in the scrutiny imposed by self-proclaimed human trafficking experts and state authorities. These entities, driven by good intentions, have inadvertently placed businesses in peril through legislation that, while well-intentioned, has often proven counterproductive.

As someone who has survived human trafficking and now leads the international anti-trafficking organization, Twentyfour-Seven, Inc., I witness daily the inadequacies in the methods employed by state legislatures. Rather than fostering effective anti-trafficking responses, current legislation tends to make businesses vulnerable without significantly addressing the root issues.

Twentyfour-Seven, Inc., boasts the most effective statistically proven anti-trafficking reporting method in use. The organization stands ready to assist corporations by aligning with existing anti-trafficking programs or creating one which fits their needs and helps limit their liability. Most importantly, the Twentyfour-Seven Anti-trafficking QR Code®, provides reporting capability to law enforcement and businesses with statistical data not obtainable with the State of Florida legislatively required methods.

Current state legislation mandates training for several industries in the signs of human trafficking. The legislation also requires the utilization of the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a private hotline managed by the anti-trafficking non-profit organization, Polaris. This privately held and controlled hotline is widely marketed as a public resource, the hotline has gained such prominence that Florida legislation now mandates its conspicuous display in various business establishments.

It doesn't require a highly trained legal professional to understand that if your business has undergone anti-trafficking training as mandated by Florida state law and has displayed required posters featuring the National Human Trafficking Hotline, then, according to the Federal Trafficking Victim Protection Act, you are deemed to have knowledge that you might be doing business with a trafficking victim. Consequently, businesses are being held liable under the Trafficking Victim Protection Act.

The most telling aspect of Florida’s anti-trafficking legislation is in a recent development, which has cast a shadow over the effectiveness of the state’s required reporting mechanism. A striking illustration of this occurred on February 27, 2023, when a letter signed by 36 attorney generals, including Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody, was dispatched to the United States Congress. The letter articulated concerns that federal grants should be withheld from Polaris due to their alleged reluctance to share human trafficking reports received through the privately held National Human Trafficking Hotline with state and local law enforcement agencies.

Having been born in an Eastern European communist country, I understand the government creating conditions that lead to less-than-acceptable results. From this perspective, legislatures mandating a private hotline who refuses to provide the criminal complaints to police seems somewhat Bolshevik to me, and therefore, as a dutiful American citizen and survivor of human trafficking, who statistically speaking, has championed the most effective human trafficking reporting method in the world, I was in a unique position to help the state improve their reporting process to law enforcement as well as being able to provide statistical data regarding human trafficking to the state.

Upon petitioning my representatives and others, my results are as follows: I found my representative, Representative Lauren Melo, could not seemingly grasp the concept of the National Human Trafficking Hotline being privately run by a privately held not-for-profit. Nor was she able to understand her legislative district is a hotspot for human trafficking and her lack of action and knowledge concerning the problem could be a direct contributor to the continued enslavement of trafficking victims.

I found Representative Torbin Overdorf is being advised by some of the very same human trafficking experts who endorsed the Polaris National Human Trafficking Hotline. The same ones who required the anti-trafficking training be written into law which makes many corporations liable for human trafficking. Essentially, those experts have no desire to improve current reporting methods to police, help local businesses navigate the problem of human trafficking, or obtain usable statistical data for the state.

The most responsive office was that of Senator Kathleen Passidomo, she agreed to meet right away and has taken the concerns and information I provided very seriously. While government processes move slowly, ongoing inquiries made by my office have shown a change to the current legislation is not a top priority for her office this legislative session.

Outside the legislative branch, I contacted Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office. I was referred back to the Attorney General's state anti-trafficking coalitions, who helped create the legislation endorsing the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The hotline, as per the letter signed by 36 attorney generals, will not provide law enforcement with the human trafficking tips or the statistical data they gather.

Self-proclaimed human trafficking experts, in tandem with legislative actions, have significantly heightened the legal responsibility borne by corporations, without necessarily enhancing the safety of human trafficking victims.

The prevailing methods of holding businesses accountable for human trafficking may persist, but there exists an opportunity for corporations to redefine their role in combating this heinous crime. Instead of merely adhering to legislative mandates, companies can proactively address the issue by instituting robust anti-trafficking programs. These programs should not only aim to fulfill legal obligations but more importantly, should serve as a comprehensive strategy. They ought to provide meaningful support to victims, equip law enforcement with indispensable information and furnish the company with statistical data showcasing the efficacy of their initiatives.

In essence, this proactive approach represents the most effective means for corporations to navigate the liability imposed by legislative measures, such as those enacted by the Florida legislature in collaboration with purported anti-trafficking experts. Should you or your business find it difficult to begin or manage such a program, please do not hesitate to contact Twentyfour-Seven, Inc. We will help you navigate the mandated pandemonium.

Visit Twentyfour-Seven, Inc.'s website for more information at: https://www.twentyfour-seven.org/

human trafficking, Twentyfour-Seven, Inc.,