Corporate Responsibility to Migrant Workers: Preventing Exploitation in Your Supply Chain

by Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

The exploitation of migrant workers continues to be a problem across the globe as reports surface of forced labor for little to no compensation. The role multinational corporations play – or should avoid playing – in this recurring problem was the topic of many news stories over the past year. The spotlight fell on several companies that failed to prevent exploitation of migrant workers in their supply chain, while other companies were praised for making promising efforts to quash the abuse. These organizations should serve as models – and cautionary tales – to companies whose employees might be at risk.

The Current Climate

According to recent statistics, “approximately 25 million people worldwide are working in situations of forced labor.” On a global scale, about “150 million people leave their countries each year in search of economic opportunities elsewhere.” Many multinational corporations that depend on foreign workers use recruitment agencies to hire them. Unethical recruiting practices by these agencies are a root cause of forced labor, as many migrant workers are subject to high recruitment fees, personal debt, deceptive hiring practices, and inadequate legal protections. As a popular practice, many recruiters charge enormous fees equating to as much as two years’ salary, causing the workers to start their jobs in debt.

More than 75 percent of these vulnerable migrant workers are employed in the private sector, mostly in the agriculture, construction, manufacturing, technology, seafood, and garment industries. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) recently reported that “the world’s 50 largest companies indirectly employ 116 million ‘hidden’ undocumented workers – equivalent to 94 percent of all the workers connected to their business.” The horrors are more prevalent in certain countries due to established underground recruiting systems. For example, Malaysia was in the news in 2016 and 2017 as being a “key player in the global manufacturing and trade of advanced electronics, at the cost of migrant workers.” Workers in Malaysia can be physically abused and forced to work 14-hour shifts under horrible working conditions, forced into debt, and denied freedom because their passports are confiscated upon arrival.

There is no hard body of international law forcing global corporations to prevent exploitation in their supply chain. However, the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which was adopted in 2011, provides that multinational businesses have an obligation to recognize these problems and address them. Thus, the responsibility falls on the companies themselves to make a difference, and they can. The Guardian reported that “with their cash reserves alone, the world’s 25 largest companies could pay informal workers in their supply chain $5,000 extra per year, ITUC calculates.” This kind of increase in income would be a significant help to a migrant worker remitting funds to financially support a family in his or her home country.

Of course, the United States is not immune to this problem. In fact, some analysts expect exploitation of migrant workers in America to grow under the Trump administration. Whether or not the president builds a wall along the United States-Mexican border, poverty will “still push economic migrants north; and the demand for cheap, low-skilled labor will still pull migrants toward the U.S.,” according to analysts with Verisk Maplecroft. Trafficking networks will adapt, using more costly methods to traffic workers into the country, and the increased cost will fall on the migrants through higher recruitment fees, meaning higher debt to keep them enslaved.

Moreover, harsher deportation policies will force undocumented migrant workers to remain in the shadows, making it harder to identify and eradicate the exploitation. In fact, tougher immigration rules will impact H-2B guest workers, on seasonal work visas, who will hesitate to report abuse for fear of not being rehired the following year. In this climate, immigrant advocates, activist groups, and the media will pressure businesses take a public position against this abuse. Any connection to exploitation of migrant workers could tarnish a corporation’s reputation, affecting revenue from customers as well as investors.

Samsung and Panasonic: Two Cautionary Tales

In 2017, labor rights activists closely watched Samsung and Panasonic, two multinational corporations that found abuse of foreign migrants in their supply chains in Malaysia. In November 2016, an investigation in The Guardian highlighted claims that workers for these two companies had been deceived about pay as well as the nature and the conditions of their work. Once arriving in Malaysia, workers’ passports were confiscated and they were forced to work up to 14 hours without rest. Since discovery of these conditions, both firms took steps in 2017 to reform their treatment of overseas migrant employees.

Panasonic has organized a series of human rights seminars for its suppliers and established a confidential whistleblowers’ hotline to report alleged abuse. Yet, not all migrant workers have a personal phone to make such reports. Panasonic later stated that its policies prohibited suppliers from collecting recruitment fees or confiscating passports. Samsung has issued fresh guidelines to its suppliers, which also impose bans on recruitment fees and the retention of workers’ passports. Further, Samsung terminated the contract with the supplier that engaged in the abuse, according The Guardian report.

NXP Semiconductors and Adidas: Two Good Models

Several companies have put promising methods in place that others should consider. For example, NXP Semiconductors, a Dutch electronics manufacturer, won a Stop Slavery Award in 2016 for its work to create a supply chain free of exploitation. NXP’s board of directors and CEO sign off on all human trafficking policies, and the company interviews foreign migrant workers before they depart to check whether they have paid recruitment fees. If money has been paid, it is refunded, and recruitment agents in the country of origin are audited. NXP also identifies vulnerable worker populations and conducts training for its suppliers in order to make informed purchasing decisions and ensure working conditions are safe and healthy. With regard to passport retention, NXP stores all workers’ passports in individual safe boxes in each employee’s locker, which are all surveilled by security cameras, and grants workers unrestricted access to those passports.

A second company, Adidas, was a 2017 winner of the Stop Slavery Award and was given  additional recognition as the Outstanding Achiever. Adidas was praised for the transparency of its audits and its strong responsible-sourcing guidelines, as well as its robust tools to trace higher-risk supply chains. For example, as a part of its Modern Slavery Outreach program, Adidas trains its leather tanneries in Taiwan and China on how to address forced labor risks. Adidas is also working on establishing multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaborations with the Fair Labor Association, International Labour Organization, civil society groups, and other brands with hopes of addressing forced labor risks in second-tier leather tanneries in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, as well as third-tier leather hide suppliers in Brazil and Paraguay. Additionally, Adidas requires its Brazilian leather suppliers to ensure that leather only comes from cattle raised at farms that meet the requirements of Brazil’s National Pact on the Eradication of Slave Labour.

Adidas was one of the world’s first companies to create a role dedicated to fighting slavery, and it uses technology to encourage workers to speak out about any abuses. Specifically, the company’s grievance system allows most complaints to be brought by trade unions and labor and human rights organizations. The company also engages in disclosure and public reporting of these incidents and how they were resolved. For example, after learning that a supplier withheld workers’ wages, Adidas supported negotiations between the union and the supplier, the development of a payment plan, and ensured payments were made to workers. In another case where several workers were wrongly dismissed, Adidas’ investigations led to the rehiring of 186 workers and also improved rights for pregnant women to work, access government maternity benefits, and to receive severance packages from the supplier.

Further, Adidas requires workers to sign contracts directly with the factory in its supply chain instead of recruitment firms. It also requires suppliers to disclose the recruitment firms they use and to monitor all recruiters. Finally, to obtain public accountability, Adidas “publishes a list of names and addresses for its primary factories, subcontractors and licensees, a practice adopted by many leading companies in the apparel and electronics sectors,” according to a report from Domini, which specializes in socially responsible investing.

Recommended Practices

While there are no perfect solutions, multinational corporations can take several steps to make a significant difference in the lives of migrant workers. Here are a few that should be priorities:

Adopt Protective Policies

1. Recruitment fees should be eliminated or paid for by the employer instead of the migrant workers. As the party with the higher bargaining power, corporations can lower the fees to make them more reasonable, and the fees would certainly be a smaller financial burden for the company than the worker. In fact, it was reported that the fees migrants pay are not related to the true cost of recruitment. If companies take on the responsibility of paying those fees, the “fees would normalize, selection processes would closer reflect business needs, and expectations of both employer and employee would be better understood from the start,” according to The Guardian.

2. Employment contracts must be written in each workers’ native language and should be signed with the supplier instead of the recruiter. Further, the contract terms should allow the workers to earn at least minimum wage and consider permitting collective bargaining, if local laws allow.

3. Like NXP Semiconductors, companies should prohibit the confiscation of passports and provide safe storage that workers will have unlimited access to.

4. Like Adidas, prior to contracting with recruiters, companies should conduct a thorough investigation into the business practices of the recruiters and the prevalence of exploitation in the respective countries. Once hired, recruiters should undergo training to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the company’s policies against exploitation.

Enforce Protective Policies

1. Companies must constantly monitor the treatment of migrant workers in their supply chain. Conducting undercover investigations or random non-scheduled audits of recruiters and supplier facilities will allow companies to obtain a realistic picture of ongoing activity and will pressure suppliers and recruiters to adhere to the policies.

2. There must be a reporting system in place for workers to make any reports of abuse directly to a human resources division in the corporation. Establishing open flow of communication with no fear of retaliation and following up with an investigation of all reports is imperative.

3. In the event violations are discovered, terminating a supplier or recruiter contract may appear to be an easy fix. However, such a move can be detrimental to the families that rely on the income from those factory jobs. Thus, it is much better to be proactive instead of reactive.


1. As with any corporate initiative, it is important to evaluate how well the implemented policies are working. “Public reporting is needed to ensure effective implementation of these kinds of policies, and to educate others about the kinds of problems that are found, the tactics that work and those that don’t. It is also a necessary mechanism for building trust with investors, consumers and other stakeholders, a valuable asset for any global brand,” according to the Domini report.

2. To help ensure your company stays on track, try taking the Sedex self-assessment questionnaire. Sedex, a specialist in supply chain data, provides 38,000 suppliers in 150 countries with a self-assessment questionnaire that corporations can access to determine their exposure to human rights risks. Sedex focuses on four principals:

  • Labor standards: includes questions on wages, working hours, children and young employees, freedom of association, non-discrimination, forced labor and human rights
  • Health & safety: includes questions on management, training, emergency and fire safety and worker health
  • Environment: includes questions on environmental management, waste, raw materials, water, energy and pollution
  • Business ethics: includes questions on bribery and corruption

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide

JD Supra Privacy Policy

Updated: May 25, 2018:

JD Supra is a legal publishing service that connects experts and their content with broader audiences of professionals, journalists and associations.

This Privacy Policy describes how JD Supra, LLC ("JD Supra" or "we," "us," or "our") collects, uses and shares personal data collected from visitors to our website (located at (our "Website") who view only publicly-available content as well as subscribers to our services (such as our email digests or author tools)(our "Services"). By using our Website and registering for one of our Services, you are agreeing to the terms of this Privacy Policy.

Please note that if you subscribe to one of our Services, you can make choices about how we collect, use and share your information through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard (available if you are logged into your JD Supra account).

Collection of Information

Registration Information. When you register with JD Supra for our Website and Services, either as an author or as a subscriber, you will be asked to provide identifying information to create your JD Supra account ("Registration Data"), such as your:

  • Email
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Company Name
  • Company Industry
  • Title
  • Country

Other Information: We also collect other information you may voluntarily provide. This may include content you provide for publication. We may also receive your communications with others through our Website and Services (such as contacting an author through our Website) or communications directly with us (such as through email, feedback or other forms or social media). If you are a subscribed user, we will also collect your user preferences, such as the types of articles you would like to read.

Information from third parties (such as, from your employer or LinkedIn): We may also receive information about you from third party sources. For example, your employer may provide your information to us, such as in connection with an article submitted by your employer for publication. If you choose to use LinkedIn to subscribe to our Website and Services, we also collect information related to your LinkedIn account and profile.

Your interactions with our Website and Services: As is true of most websites, we gather certain information automatically. This information includes IP addresses, browser type, Internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, operating system, date/time stamp and clickstream data. We use this information to analyze trends, to administer the Website and our Services, to improve the content and performance of our Website and Services, and to track users' movements around the site. We may also link this automatically-collected data to personal information, for example, to inform authors about who has read their articles. Some of this data is collected through information sent by your web browser. We also use cookies and other tracking technologies to collect this information. To learn more about cookies and other tracking technologies that JD Supra may use on our Website and Services please see our "Cookies Guide" page.

How do we use this information?

We use the information and data we collect principally in order to provide our Website and Services. More specifically, we may use your personal information to:

  • Operate our Website and Services and publish content;
  • Distribute content to you in accordance with your preferences as well as to provide other notifications to you (for example, updates about our policies and terms);
  • Measure readership and usage of the Website and Services;
  • Communicate with you regarding your questions and requests;
  • Authenticate users and to provide for the safety and security of our Website and Services;
  • Conduct research and similar activities to improve our Website and Services; and
  • Comply with our legal and regulatory responsibilities and to enforce our rights.

How is your information shared?

  • Content and other public information (such as an author profile) is shared on our Website and Services, including via email digests and social media feeds, and is accessible to the general public.
  • If you choose to use our Website and Services to communicate directly with a company or individual, such communication may be shared accordingly.
  • Readership information is provided to publishing law firms and authors of content to give them insight into their readership and to help them to improve their content.
  • Our Website may offer you the opportunity to share information through our Website, such as through Facebook's "Like" or Twitter's "Tweet" button. We offer this functionality to help generate interest in our Website and content and to permit you to recommend content to your contacts. You should be aware that sharing through such functionality may result in information being collected by the applicable social media network and possibly being made publicly available (for example, through a search engine). Any such information collection would be subject to such third party social media network's privacy policy.
  • Your information may also be shared to parties who support our business, such as professional advisors as well as web-hosting providers, analytics providers and other information technology providers.
  • Any court, governmental authority, law enforcement agency or other third party where we believe disclosure is necessary to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation, or otherwise to protect our rights, the rights of any third party or individuals' personal safety, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or safety issues.
  • To our affiliated entities and in connection with the sale, assignment or other transfer of our company or our business.

How We Protect Your Information

JD Supra takes reasonable and appropriate precautions to insure that user information is protected from loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. You should keep in mind that no Internet transmission is ever 100% secure or error-free. Where you use log-in credentials (usernames, passwords) on our Website, please remember that it is your responsibility to safeguard them. If you believe that your log-in credentials have been compromised, please contact us at

Children's Information

Our Website and Services are not directed at children under the age of 16 and we do not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 16 through our Website and/or Services. If you have reason to believe that a child under the age of 16 has provided personal information to us, please contact us, and we will endeavor to delete that information from our databases.

Links to Other Websites

Our Website and Services may contain links to other websites. The operators of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using our Website or Services and click a link to another site, you will leave our Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We are not responsible for the data collection and use practices of such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of our Website and Services and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Information for EU and Swiss Residents

JD Supra's principal place of business is in the United States. By subscribing to our website, you expressly consent to your information being processed in the United States.

  • Our Legal Basis for Processing: Generally, we rely on our legitimate interests in order to process your personal information. For example, we rely on this legal ground if we use your personal information to manage your Registration Data and administer our relationship with you; to deliver our Website and Services; understand and improve our Website and Services; report reader analytics to our authors; to personalize your experience on our Website and Services; and where necessary to protect or defend our or another's rights or property, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, safety or privacy issues. Please see Article 6(1)(f) of the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") In addition, there may be other situations where other grounds for processing may exist, such as where processing is a result of legal requirements (GDPR Article 6(1)(c)) or for reasons of public interest (GDPR Article 6(1)(e)). Please see the "Your Rights" section of this Privacy Policy immediately below for more information about how you may request that we limit or refrain from processing your personal information.
  • Your Rights
    • Right of Access/Portability: You can ask to review details about the information we hold about you and how that information has been used and disclosed. Note that we may request to verify your identification before fulfilling your request. You can also request that your personal information is provided to you in a commonly used electronic format so that you can share it with other organizations.
    • Right to Correct Information: You may ask that we make corrections to any information we hold, if you believe such correction to be necessary.
    • Right to Restrict Our Processing or Erasure of Information: You also have the right in certain circumstances to ask us to restrict processing of your personal information or to erase your personal information. Where you have consented to our use of your personal information, you can withdraw your consent at any time.

You can make a request to exercise any of these rights by emailing us at or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

You can also manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard.

We will make all practical efforts to respect your wishes. There may be times, however, where we are not able to fulfill your request, for example, if applicable law prohibits our compliance. Please note that JD Supra does not use "automatic decision making" or "profiling" as those terms are defined in the GDPR.

  • Timeframe for retaining your personal information: We will retain your personal information in a form that identifies you only for as long as it serves the purpose(s) for which it was initially collected as stated in this Privacy Policy, or subsequently authorized. We may continue processing your personal information for longer periods, but only for the time and to the extent such processing reasonably serves the purposes of archiving in the public interest, journalism, literature and art, scientific or historical research and statistical analysis, and subject to the protection of this Privacy Policy. For example, if you are an author, your personal information may continue to be published in connection with your article indefinitely. When we have no ongoing legitimate business need to process your personal information, we will either delete or anonymize it, or, if this is not possible (for example, because your personal information has been stored in backup archives), then we will securely store your personal information and isolate it from any further processing until deletion is possible.
  • Onward Transfer to Third Parties: As noted in the "How We Share Your Data" Section above, JD Supra may share your information with third parties. When JD Supra discloses your personal information to third parties, we have ensured that such third parties have either certified under the EU-U.S. or Swiss Privacy Shield Framework and will process all personal data received from EU member states/Switzerland in reliance on the applicable Privacy Shield Framework or that they have been subjected to strict contractual provisions in their contract with us to guarantee an adequate level of data protection for your data.

California Privacy Rights

Pursuant to Section 1798.83 of the California Civil Code, our customers who are California residents have the right to request certain information regarding our disclosure of personal information to third parties for their direct marketing purposes.

You can make a request for this information by emailing us at or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

Some browsers have incorporated a Do Not Track (DNT) feature. These features, when turned on, send a signal that you prefer that the website you are visiting not collect and use data regarding your online searching and browsing activities. As there is not yet a common understanding on how to interpret the DNT signal, we currently do not respond to DNT signals on our site.

Access/Correct/Update/Delete Personal Information

For non-EU/Swiss residents, if you would like to know what personal information we have about you, you can send an e-mail to We will be in contact with you (by mail or otherwise) to verify your identity and provide you the information you request. We will respond within 30 days to your request for access to your personal information. In some cases, we may not be able to remove your personal information, in which case we will let you know if we are unable to do so and why. If you would like to correct or update your personal information, you can manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard. If you would like to delete your account or remove your information from our Website and Services, send an e-mail to

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Privacy Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our Privacy Policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use our Website and Services following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, the practices of this site, your dealings with our Website or Services, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

JD Supra Cookie Guide

As with many websites, JD Supra's website (located at (our "Website") and our services (such as our email article digests)(our "Services") use a standard technology called a "cookie" and other similar technologies (such as, pixels and web beacons), which are small data files that are transferred to your computer when you use our Website and Services. These technologies automatically identify your browser whenever you interact with our Website and Services.

How We Use Cookies and Other Tracking Technologies

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to:

  1. Improve the user experience on our Website and Services;
  2. Store the authorization token that users receive when they login to the private areas of our Website. This token is specific to a user's login session and requires a valid username and password to obtain. It is required to access the user's profile information, subscriptions, and analytics;
  3. Track anonymous site usage; and
  4. Permit connectivity with social media networks to permit content sharing.

There are different types of cookies and other technologies used our Website, notably:

  • "Session cookies" - These cookies only last as long as your online session, and disappear from your computer or device when you close your browser (like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari).
  • "Persistent cookies" - These cookies stay on your computer or device after your browser has been closed and last for a time specified in the cookie. We use persistent cookies when we need to know who you are for more than one browsing session. For example, we use them to remember your preferences for the next time you visit.
  • "Web Beacons/Pixels" - Some of our web pages and emails may also contain small electronic images known as web beacons, clear GIFs or single-pixel GIFs. These images are placed on a web page or email and typically work in conjunction with cookies to collect data. We use these images to identify our users and user behavior, such as counting the number of users who have visited a web page or acted upon one of our email digests.

JD Supra Cookies. We place our own cookies on your computer to track certain information about you while you are using our Website and Services. For example, we place a session cookie on your computer each time you visit our Website. We use these cookies to allow you to log-in to your subscriber account. In addition, through these cookies we are able to collect information about how you use the Website, including what browser you may be using, your IP address, and the URL address you came from upon visiting our Website and the URL you next visit (even if those URLs are not on our Website). We also utilize email web beacons to monitor whether our emails are being delivered and read. We also use these tools to help deliver reader analytics to our authors to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

Analytics/Performance Cookies. JD Supra also uses the following analytic tools to help us analyze the performance of our Website and Services as well as how visitors use our Website and Services:

  • HubSpot - For more information about HubSpot cookies, please visit
  • New Relic - For more information on New Relic cookies, please visit
  • Google Analytics - For more information on Google Analytics cookies, visit To opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics across all websites visit This will allow you to download and install a Google Analytics cookie-free web browser.

Facebook, Twitter and other Social Network Cookies. Our content pages allow you to share content appearing on our Website and Services to your social media accounts through the "Like," "Tweet," or similar buttons displayed on such pages. To accomplish this Service, we embed code that such third party social networks provide and that we do not control. These buttons know that you are logged in to your social network account and therefore such social networks could also know that you are viewing the JD Supra Website.

Controlling and Deleting Cookies

If you would like to change how a browser uses cookies, including blocking or deleting cookies from the JD Supra Website and Services you can do so by changing the settings in your web browser. To control cookies, most browsers allow you to either accept or reject all cookies, only accept certain types of cookies, or prompt you every time a site wishes to save a cookie. It's also easy to delete cookies that are already saved on your device by a browser.

The processes for controlling and deleting cookies vary depending on which browser you use. To find out how to do so with a particular browser, you can use your browser's "Help" function or alternatively, you can visit which explains, step-by-step, how to control and delete cookies in most browsers.

Updates to This Policy

We may update this cookie policy and our Privacy Policy from time-to-time, particularly as technology changes. You can always check this page for the latest version. We may also notify you of changes to our privacy policy by email.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please contact us at:

- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.