January is declared as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Florida. At DBPR, we are dedicated to ensuring employees of licensed businesses, employed minors and farm workers are all protected and educated in the workplace. I want to remind consumers how important it is to be aware of the common signs of human trafficking and how we can all improve the safety of employees in work environments.
The best way for DBPR to help combat human trafficking in the state of Florida is by educating our inspectors who work in the field. DBPR inspectors statewide attend many human trafficking awareness trainings, either hosted by local law enforcement agencies or human trafficking experts. For example, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department has a number of vendors who attend their quarterly meetings, including DBPR, the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families and local retail vendors. To ensure our inspectors can easily identify the common signs of human trafficking and report it to the appropriate authorities, our regional offices attend several outreach events focusing on the detection, prevention and reporting of suspected human trafficking situations in multiple industries.
DBPR’s Child Labor Program was established to specifically protect young workers from employment situations that may interfere with their safety, wellbeing or educational opportunities. To accomplish this goal, DBPR inspectors use their skills to recognize signs of child labor violations or concerning working relationships for minors at licensed establishments. DBPR’s Farm Labor Program also ensures, through a system of compliance and enforcement, that Florida farm workers are protected from harmful work situations and exploitation. This is accomplished through routine inspections and investigations as well as partnerships with other organizations including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Department of Labor, Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Some of the common signs of human trafficking at places of business include indications of employees living within the place of business, several immigrant workers being on site and a lack of worker identification for employees. Farm labor investigators also commonly discuss the working environment with farm workers to ensure healthy working conditions are being met. In the event that DBPR inspectors suspect human trafficking is taking place at an establishment, the situation is reported immediately to the appropriate law enforcement authority.
Safety is a top priority for Florida workers and consumers. At DBPR, we strive to ensure that Florida’s licensees, employed minors and farm workers are protected from the dangers of human trafficking. For support, Florida farm workers are encouraged to disclose any information or file complaints by calling the Florida Farm Workers Helpline at 1-800-533-3572. Consumers are also encouraged to report signs of human trafficking by calling 1-800-342-0820.
Unfortunately, human trafficking is something that still takes place in 2016. I highly encourage Florida’s employers and citizens to become aware of the common signs of human trafficking and aid in the protection of the victims of these unfortunate situations. DBPR will continue to be proactive in making referrals to the appropriate agencies to further protect the safety of Florida’s hardworking residents.
Secretary for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation
State of Florida