The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) plays a small but important role in detecting and disrupting labor trafficking. As a civil law enforcement agency, WHD does not have the criminal investigative authority to prosecute potential instances of labor trafficking. However, it can play a critical role in detecting and referring possible cases to law enforcement agencies, as well as assisting in computing back wages for victims for the labor they were forced to perform. The laws that WHD enforces apply regardless of immigration status and our investigators have experience and expertise in reconstructing wages and hours where employers fail to keep proper records.
Working to ensure compliance with federal labor laws, WHD investigators are often in workplaces across the country. In industries with vulnerable workers – including restaurants, garment factories, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture – investigators interview workers and assess situations where workers may have been intimidated, threatened, or held against their will. Investigators also review payroll records and inspect migrant farmworkers' housing. They are often the first government authorities to witness exploitative labor practices and, as a result, play an important role in identifying and combating labor trafficking.
When such conditions are detected, WHD refers these cases to state and/or local law enforcement agencies. It also coordinates with federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Offices of U.S. Attorneys, to ensure restitution on behalf of victims of trafficking. Additionally, WHD participates in numerous anti-trafficking coordination teams and labor trafficking task forces around the country to better collaborate with our partners to combat labor trafficking and assist victims.
WHD is participating in this online dialogue to gather input and ideas from the public and other stakeholders, including subject matter experts. Ideas and comments gathered from this online dialogue will be used to guide the work of WHD in developing better outreach strategies, including new resources and materials.