On January 1st, 2019 California saw two new human trafficking laws go into effect. Both approved in the Fall of 2018 aim to reduce the cases of modern slavery within the state. A significant impact of the laws is education, both for regular citizens and those in captivity. For employees of specific industries this means guidance in recognizing the signs of human trafficking and hopefully reporting suspicious behavior. While new informational signs provide victims the knowledge to escape or ask for help should they think they are in coercive situations.

Senate Bill 970- Employee Education

This law requires specified businesses in the hotel industry to teach employees a proper response to suspected trafficking cases. Businesses previously required to provide sexual harassment training under the Fair Employment and House Act of California (FEHA) must now also include a minimum of 20-minutes of modern slavery awareness directions. The law classified hotels and motels with over 50 employees as those establishments required to provide the training. Small bed and breakfasts are not included in the original act, so it appears as if they are exempt from the inclusion of SB 970.

Those corporations impacted by the law are additionally required to comply with the designated timeline. Any employee hired before July 1, 2019, must receive training by January 1, 2020, and anyone appointed after the July deadline must receive it six months after their start date. The new inclusion also allows the Department of Homeland Security to force an entity to complete the program.

The companies can utilize information provided by the Blue Campaign of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Orange County District Attorney's Office, or any other governmental or private organization dedicated to combating exploitation. The 20-minute class should include instruction on what human trafficking is, the difference between labor and sex trafficking, contact information or appropriate agencies (such as the human trafficking hotline), and protocol for how an employee should react to situations.

Some large hotel branches previously worked to educate their staff, such as Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott International. Most recently, Marriott reached a milestone of coaching 500,000 staff members using a curriculum launched in January 2017 in partnership with abolitionists organizations Polaris and ECPAT-USA. It is unclear if any of the 500,000 employees were trained in California this past January; however, based on recent events Marriott must utilize its program in the state by next year's deadline.

Assembly Bill 2034- Signs and Posting in the Transportation and Other Industries

Similar to the previous legal change, Assembly Bill 2034 amended a prior law. Section 52.6 of the Civil Code of California initially required only a few types of places, mainly in the transportation industry, such as truck stops, airports, and transit rails, to post signs defining human trafficking and support resources in the view of the general public. Lawmakers pushed for the new inclusion to incorporate a broader range of occupations, which include all adult services locations, hospitals, urgent cares, roadside rest areas, hotels and motels, and farm labor contractors.

Bus stops and human trafficking

The California Department of Justice provided the notice on January 1, 2019, and all designated enterprises are to download and post the signs in the correct size, font, and languages as soon as possible. English, Spanish, and another language (if it is a dominant dialect in a given county) are to be used as well. The posting accomplishes three major goals. First, they explain an exploitative situation because often victims may not understand the complexity of their circumstances. Secondly, the signs clearly state exploitative behavior is illegal and captives will receive assistance from the state and federal governments. Thirdly, it provides contact information for resources equipped in rescue operations.

Additionally, workers in bus or rail transportation must complete the minimum 20-minute course similar to hotel staff. Outside of the foundational knowledge on the subject, people will learn the nuanced aspects of the crime: spotting the collective mental and physical signs, nonverbal behavior, and understanding the importance of what is not present (i.e., luggage, refusing to housekeep).

In the Future

Labor and sexual exploitation thrive on the general public's unfamiliarity of it while using intimidation to prevent victims from seeking help. The two new laws aim to combat both of these aspects by targeting places where perpetrators commit the crime. Hopefully now with citizens looking for warning signs and resources showing captives it is safe to come forward, California can reduce the occurrences of slavery. According to the Human Trafficking Hotline, California had the highest number of reported cases in the U.S. for the past six years, meaning it had the highest number of survivors or good Samaritans fighting against the problem, one incident at a time.

In 2018, Marriott's program saw its impact twice. In one of its location's in Toronto, Canada, housekeeping workers reported uncomfortable behavior amongst a female teenager guest. While in New Orleans, Louisiana, a security guard overheard two men discussing taking home their younger male companion (later found to be 12 years old). In both examples, hotel management alerted the authorities, both were human trafficking scenarios, and two survivors were rescued. Let us hope California can experience the same success.


SB 970


AB 2034