SJI and Assembly Member Arambula help labor trafficking survivors come forward


AB 1820 will protect California’s most vulnerable workers from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals and businesses whoforce them to work under duress with little to no pay. This bill will provide the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) with statutory authority to investigate claims of human labor trafficking.


Labor trafficking is a form of human trafficking which involves obtaining labor through use of force, fraud, or coercion. There are many different situations that trafficked workers face—threats from employers relating to documentation status, harm to their families, and loss of wages—that prevent victims from trying to escape and seek services available. The United States is believed to be among the most common destination countries for trafficking, and California among the most common destination states.¹

California first enacted anti-trafficking laws fifteen years ago, yet no state agency currently has a mandate to look for labor trafficking. Two state agencies that do have jurisdiction to prosecute trafficking crime sare the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Both DOJ and DFEH coordinate with DIR when encountering labor trafficking caseson an as needed basis. Despite this coordination, DIR does not have authority to investigate labor trafficking.

By establishing a Labor Trafficking Unit within DIR, our state can take necessary steps to properly prevent, investigate, and coordinate state efforts to put a stop to the abuses of workers.

Current Law

A September 2020 report published by the Little Hoover Commission concluded that the state’s efforts to prevent labor trafficking are fragmented.² California must do more to ensure labor traffickers are brought to justice through increased investigation and prosecution. Currently, no state agencies are tasked with preventing labor trafficking or coordinating with other agencies to stop trafficking before it starts.

This Bill

AB 1820:

  1. Creates a Labor Trafficking Unit within DIR as a subdivision of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
  2. Grants the Labor Trafficking Unit authority to receive and investigate complaints alleging labor trafficking.
  3. Requires the Labor Trafficking Unit to coordinate with or refer cases to the Labor Enforcement Task Force or DFEH for potential civil actions.
  4. Requires the Labor Trafficking Unit to coordinate with or refer cases to DOJ for potential criminal actions.
  5. Prevents labor trafficking through coordination with current systems to identify opportunities for early identification of trafficking victims.
  6. Creates protocols to ensure survivors are not further victimized by the process of prosecuting traffickers and are informed about available services.
  7. Requires the Labor Trafficking Unit to report to the Legislature the status of labor trafficking cases received by the unit.


  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFCSME)
  • California Catholic Conference
  • California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF)
  • Little Hoover Commission
  • Loyola Law School, SJI Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative (Co-Sponsor)
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • Precision Nails
  • Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP) (Co-Sponsor)


¹ Little Hoover Commission Report “Human Trafficking: Coordinating a California Response.” June 2020.

² Little Hoover Commission Report “Labor Trafficking: Strategies to Uncover this Hidden Crime.” September 2020.