California Requires Businesses to Address International Slavery and Human Trafficking

January 6, 2011

By James R. Phelps

California's SB 657, adopted in 2010, enlists manufacturers and retailers of goods with annual worldwide gross receipts over $100 million in the effort to eradicate “slavery and human trafficking.”  They are to provide information on their website to detail what they do to 1) verify that their chain of supply is not tainted with such practices, 2) conduct audits of suppliers to confirm lack of such involvement, 3) require direct suppliers to certify that materials used in products are complying with laws concerning slavery and human trafficking, 4) maintain accountability standards for employees and suppliers who fail to comply, and 5) provide employees involved in supply chain management with training about the slavery and human trafficking issues and how to mitigate their risks in the businesses.  Failure to comply, the law says, may subject the business to injunction actions brought by the state’s attorney general.  Presumably, this would apply to most manufacturers of food, drugs, and medical devices that purchase raw materials or components from overseas sources.

Some national governments that are U.S. trade partners are not so punctilious about the rights of workers.  In some of those jurisdictions people are told where they will work, without regard to the individuals’ wishes; how should those doing business in California react to these situations?  What would be the effect, should the businesses identify those jurisdictions in their websites?  How will they, in order to provide correct information on the website, police the compliance of suppliers from those jurisdictions?  There are other practical issues that need no elaboration.

It is admirable that the California legislature, with so many grave issues before it, is able to find the time and energy to address the international blight of slavery and human trafficking.  The wisdom of directing California businesses to take the lead in solving the problem is yet to be determined.

Thanks to lawyer/lobbyist Randy Pollack for alerting us to this new law =, (916) 448-4848.

Categories: Miscellaneous