Slavery exists and Florida is attempting to do something to end it. A bill pending in the state legislature would grant victims of human trafficking the right to file a civil lawsuit for damages against anyone benefiting from it by expanding the current definition of a trafficker. Among those organizations who could become targets of such lawsuits are the owners of hotels doing business in the state.
Human trafficking is a global issue
Federal and state laws define human trafficking as compelling someone through force, coercion or fraud to perform work or engage in sex acts. According to the Department of Homeland Security, it is a global issue with millions of adults and children being victimized to generate billions of dollars in profits for traffickers and others engaging in it.
There were 7,621 cases of human trafficking reported in the U.S. in 2016, the last year for which yearly totals are available. 556 of those reported cases was in Florida. It is one of the main reasons the legislature is pressing to pass legislation to augment its criminal statutes. Only California and Texas rank higher in most reported cases of human trafficking. The Florida Department of Children and Families received 1,900 reports in 2016 about human trafficking.
Why additional legislation is needed to protect human trafficking victims
Among the provisions of the bills being debated in both houses of the state legislature is one expanding the definition of a trafficker to include anyone receiving something of value through a venture that subjects another person to human trafficking.In addition to giving victims the right to sue, one bill creates a fund to pay for safe houses and physical and mental health exams for victims. The trust fund would also underwrite programs designed to increase public awareness of the problem of human trafficking. The money for the trust would come from the inclusion of a $50,000 fine imposed upon any person or entity successfully sued once the proposed legislation becomes law.
Hotels are concerned about the proposed bills
Although the proposed legislation does not directly target hotel and restaurant owners, much of the testimony from former victims of human trafficking focused on them. Testimony about hotel employees, including managers, failing to report illegal activities in their facilities could make the owners and operators defendants in lawsuits filed by victims of human trafficking that occurred in their establishments.
Some legislators, while not condoning human trafficking, are concerned about the impact lawsuits could have on hotels and restaurants. An amendment to the legislation now pending would protect hotels from being sued. They would need to implement programs aimed at training employees to recognize the presence of human trafficking activities at their facilities. The programs would also help companies create a planned procedure for reporting such activities.
Help coming for human trafficking victims
The bill recently received unanimous approval by a house judiciary committee. The approval lays the groundwork for a vote in front of the Florida House. Any measures passed by the legislature and signed into law, would not become law until the fall of this year. If you need more information about how the legislation would affect you or someone you know, speak to a reputable attorney. Contact us today to learn more about your rights.