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Understanding What Works in the Identification, Investigation, and Prosecution of Labor Trafficking Cases in the United States: Improving Collaboration Between Law Enforcement Agencies and Departments of Labor Key Findings and Recommendations

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages

This paper reports on a study aimed at identifying promising practices in labor trafficking identification and response, and to understand how labor trafficking came to be prioritized in five US jurisdictions; it presents the study design, key findings, and recommendations for departments of labor and other civil labor regulatory agencies.


This paper addresses the problem of labor trafficking in the United States by examining methods for countering this problem in five US regions that have demonstrated innovation in identifying and responding to labor trafficking cases. Innovative strategies include: dedicated labor trafficking investigators; specialized units within district attorneys’ offices; and a statewide multidisciplinary team approach that incorporates efforts to identify and respond to labor trafficking. The research study behind this paper used a multi-method strategy to understand how those jurisdictions organized their unique policies, legal, and cultural settings of each participating county. The project also explored how the identification and response to labor trafficking is understood and addressed as separate from sex trafficking. The study had three overarching research questions: what patterns there are in the characteristics of labor trafficking cases as identified by law enforcement at the state and local level; how the identification and investigation of labor trafficking cases differs from that of sex trafficking; and what the features of successful labor trafficking investigations are. Key findings highlighted collaboration, the role of departments of labor (DOLs) and accountability, survivor justice, and barriers to DOL involvement. Recommendations suggest following up with local DOL representatives after case resolution, DOL involvement in task force and anti-trafficking response efforts, and education and outreach efforts.

Date Published: January 1, 2023