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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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How “Job Placement Fees” Can Equate to IL Involuntary Servitude

One of the great benefits of capitalism is that people are guaranteed pay for the work they do. The US has one of the most robust economies in the world, along with a high standard of living.

These factors combined make the US, and particularly large cities like Chicago, attractive to immigrants.

That said, because many migrant workers don’t have any resources in the US, they are vulnerable to exploitation.

Involuntary Servitude and Immigrants in Illinois

Involuntary servitude is the process of forcing someone to work for you through threats of harm, legal abuse, or financial control.

Job Placement Fees

The second two aspects are often used when migrants are in the US on tenuously legal grounds. In particular, migrants are vulnerable to “job placement fees” as a source of financial coercion.

These programs typically charge both employers for supplying workers and workers for the privilege of entering the country.

Here’s the thing. It’s illegal to charge workers for the privilege of being hired. Because of this, hiring workers through one of these programs can leave your company in violation of involuntary servitude charges.

Wage-Shorting and Threats of Deportation

Even outside of predatory programs, it’s possible to run afoul of involuntary service laws. Migrant workers in cash industries face problems due to their immigrant status. It is unfortunately common for these workers to see their wages shorted.

Some employers will also threaten to have migrant workers deported if they complain. That is considered abuse of the law, and therefore the company is forcing involuntary servitude.

Illinois Criminal Charges for Involuntary Servitude Offenses

Involuntary servitude is a felony offense. Depending on the method of coercion, it’s anywhere from a Class 4 to a Class X felony.

The definition phrases these offenses as a “conspiracy to subject” someone to involuntary servitude. This means the law applies to anyone who agrees to be part of committing the crime – even those business owners who sign contracts with placement agencies that charge the workers.

Penalties When Convicted of Involuntary Servitude Crimes in IL

Penalties for the crime of involuntary servitude vary. They align with the felony class for which one is convicted.

If someone uses financial control or financial harm to force involuntary servitude, for example, they are committing a Class 4 felony. This charge carries a penalty of up to 3 years in jail and individual fines of $25,000.

At the other end of the scale, using physical harm to force involuntary servitude is a Class X felony. As a result, you may face 30-60 years in jail, depending on prior convictions, along with corporate fines of up to $50,000.

Penalties When Convicted of Involuntary Servitude Crimes in IL

Two Tips for Avoiding Involuntary Servitude Charges in Illinois

Involuntary servitude is obviously worth avoiding, both from a legal and moral standpoint. It’s not hard to prevent these situations, once you’re aware of risk factors. Here are two tips to follow when you regularly hire immigrants:

  1. Always do your research when it comes to recruitment firms. Programs that are legally dubious will have strange reviews and will avoid giving you background check results.
  2. You want your recruitment partners to be upfront with how their hiring process occurs. If you aren’t given copies of all the necessary paperwork for hiring migrant workers, you may be facing an involuntary servitude situation.

Migrant workers can be a great resource for your Chicago company. It’s important to make sure that you remain within the law, however. Involuntary servitude charges can seriously harm your company. If your company is facing charges of involuntary servitude, it’s critical that you find good representation immediately. Fighting the charges in court can prevent huge fines and years in jail.

 

About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.

 

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