Employees in New York and elsewhere are federally protected against labor practices that can harm and exploit them. You may have heard about the problem of sex trafficking, but labor trafficking may be a new term to you. Unfortunately, this form of modern-day slavery is prevalent throughout the U.S., especially among undocumented immigrants.

What exactly is labor trafficking, you may wonder? According to PBS FRONTLINE, employers using this illegal form of involuntary labor utilize coercion, force or fraud to keep workers under their control. Often, they force them into debt and withdraw large portions of their paychecks to “repay” this debt, threaten to report them to immigration authorities or threaten them or their family members with physical harm or death if they refuse to do as they are told. In some cases, trafficked laborers are prevented from leaving the property, even after their shifts. The majority of trafficked workers are immigrants, many of whom are minors. Construction, landscaping, agriculture, janitorial and even nail salons are industries in which many trafficked laborers are found.

It may surprise you to learn that labor trafficking is suspected to be more common than sex trafficking. The president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center reported 235 federal labor trafficking cases over the past 10 years, compared with 20 sex trafficking cases during the same period.

Abusive employers rely on the fact that many at-risk employees are unaware of their rights or are easy to subdue and manipulate with the fear of deportation or harm to their loved ones. However, you and others can seek legal recourse if your labor and civil rights are being violated. This information is not meant to replace the advice of a lawyer.