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NY Penal Law § 135.35: Labor Trafficking

June 28, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

The term “labor trafficking” is a contemporary term that basically means slavery. It speaks of making a person perform work by the use of force, fraud, or coercion. There are numerous types of labor trafficking, including forcing a person to work to pay off a debt, making someone do work by giving that person drugs, or forcing a person to work for very low or no pay by withholding that person’s passport.  You could be prosecuted for the crime of labor trafficking under New York Penal Law § 135.35 if you induce a person to work under the following circumstances:


  1. Giving the person drugs
  2. For the purpose of repaying a debt where fraud was a factor
  3. Withholding a passport or other immigration document to coerce them
  4. Using physical force to coerce them
  5. Using a coercion threat against them, saying you will do one of the following: inflict physical injury, damage their property, kidnap or unlawfully imprison them or someone they care about, accuse the person of a crime, expose a person’s secret, testify or withhold testimony in court, or abuse the authority of an official office to another person’s detriment.


Labor trafficking is categorized a class D felony.


For Example

Claudia decided to hire someone to work in her home as a maid. Although Claudia is a rather wealthy woman, she was not willing to pay the maid she would hire very much money. Claudia put an ad in the newspaper for the job and she interviewed several candidates that responded. She finally found a young woman who was willing to take the job for minimum wage. As soon as the woman began working, Claudia paid her only irregularly. Once the young woman complained, Claudia ordered her to continue to do the housekeeping work. Claudia threatened the young woman that if she refused to do her job, she would call the police and accuse her of theft. Claudia could be charged with the crime of labor trafficking, because she used a threat in order to force the young woman to continue to work for very little pay.


Offenses that are Related

Coercion in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 135.65

Coercion in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 135.60


Possible Defenses

A plausible defense against a labor trafficking charge is showing evidence that you have been paying the complainant a fair wage, that the person is doing their job under fair working conditions and that the person has the liberty to leave your employ at any time without any illegal repercussions.


The Sentence

Again, labor trafficking is a class D felony. The maximum possible sentence you could face for this felony is 7 years in prison. The final determination on the length of your prison sentence will depend on factors such as your prior criminal record, whether you take responsibility for your actions, and the facts surrounding your case. If you don’t have any prior felony convictions, then the judge can opt to sentence you to a probation term. On the other hand, if you do have one or more prior felony convictions, then the judge will sentence you to prison time.



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