Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Combating Trafficking in Persons (TIP)

More than 20 million men, women and children throughout the world are victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons (TIP). TIP is often associated with sex trafficking but in the context of Government contracting, also include the recruitment, harboring, transportation ,provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

The US has a zero-tolerance policy regarding Government employees and contractor personnel engaging in any form of these forms of criminal behavior. As the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, the US Government bears a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars do not contribute to trafficking in persons.

With respect to Government contracting, the policy, along with violations and remedies is found in FAR Subpart 22.17. Based on various hearings and studies, that coverage has been deemed to be inadequate and ineffectual for combating TIP. As a result, the President issued an Executive Order (EO) last September to strengthen protections against TIP in Federal contracting.

Some of the improved safeguards provided by the EO to strengthen compliance with anti-trafficking laws include:

  • expressly prohibiting Federal contractors, contractor employees, subcontractors, and subcontractor employees from engaging in any of the following types of trafficking-related activities:
    • using misleading or fraudulent recruitment practices during the recruitment of employees, such as failing to disclose basic information or making material misrepresentations regarding the key terms and conditions of employment, includeing wages and fringe benefits, the location of work, living conditions and housing (if employer provided or arranged), any significant costs to be charged to the employee, and if applicable, the hazardous nature of the work;
    • Charging employees recruitment fees (hey, Seoul CPO, are you listening?)
    • Destroying, concealing, confiscating, or otherwise denying access by an employee to the employee's identity documents, such as passports or drivers' licenses; and
    • For portrions of contracts and subcontracts performed outside the US, failing to pay return transportation costs upon the end of employment
  • Requiring contractors and their subcontractors, by contract clause, to agree to cooperate fully in providing reasonable access to allow contracting agencies and other responsible enforcement agencies to conduct audits, investigations, or other actions to ascertain compliance with the laws, regulations, and orders.
  • Requiring contracting officers to notify the agency's Inspector General and other officials if they become aware of any activities that would justify contract termination.
  • Require contractors and subcontractors to maintain compliance plans and to post those plans in the workplace or on the contractors' websites.

In tomorrow's post, we will discuss what those compliance plans might look like and what they must include.

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