Responding to the Civil Legal Needs of Trafficking Victims

We assist trafficking victims on a wide range of civil legal needs, depending on their personal circumstances and the trafficking situation they endured. While some victims will need only limited legal services for a short period of time, others will have multiple legal issues that may last for many years.

We commonly assist trafficking victims in immigration or repatriation, family law, and public benefits access..

Civil litigation. 

Some trafficking survivors may file their own civil lawsuits against their traffickers or those involved in the trafficking operation. This may include charges of human trafficking, violations of labor and employment laws, violations of contracts, and other violations of civil law. These actions may help survivors obtain greater damages, and when criminal charges cannot be filed, pursuing a case as the plaintiff in a civil suit can help survivors reverse their victim status and feel in charge of their lives once again.

Family law.

Victims might want a Protection or Restraining Order to order the trafficker to stay away from the victim and/or to return the victim’s possessions. These orders may be included in any criminal proceeding, but victims may need to seek a civil order while the case is pending or when there is no criminal case. Victims, particularly those who are related to their traffickers, may need assistance with separation, divorce, child custody and support, guardianship, or adoption. Even the strongest families can be irreparably damaged by the trafficking experience and may need legal resolution.

Employment law.

Trafficking victims may also have been subject to violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires the payment of minimum wage and overtime to covered, non-exempt workers.  Trafficking victims may also have claims under state or local minimum wage laws or contract law. Victims may have been subjected to harassment or discrimination in their workplace and need assistance in filing a complaint with the Equal

Employment Opportunity Commission. The Department of Labor investigates workplaces for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and may encounter potential trafficking victims during the course of an investigation, at which time it would refer the case to an appropriate law enforcement agency.  The Department of Labor is sometimes asked by law enforcement agencies to assist in calculating restitution owed to victims.

There are many local and state employment laws that may be stronger than federal labor laws. Depending on the availability of funds associated with the nature of the case, the Civil Legal Service of Orpe Human Rights Advocates assist trafficking survivors file and pursue civil suits that involve accommodation issues, sexual harassment and discrimination, wage and hour violations, worker’s compensation, disability rights, and immigration issues.

Public benefits access.

Trafficking survivors may be eligible for a wide range of federally and locally funded public benefits, but usually need assistance to access these benefits. The services available to them may depend on their income, legal status, marital status, age, criminal record, and other factors. Public benefits offices may not be familiar with human trafficking and may not apply the appropriate criteria for assessing eligibility. Sometimes receiving monetary awards from a successfully settled civil suit or criminal restitution case can make survivors ineligible for public benefits. Trafficking survivors should receive help from benefits attorneys to structure their money damages properly.