Fighting Forced Labor: A Business and Human Rights-Based Proposal to Reform the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act

The number of individuals in forced labor worldwide continues to rise. From 2012 to 2021 the estimated number of people in forced labor rose from 20.9 million to 27.6 million. One aspect of this global problem is the role that multinational corporations play in contributing to the continued prevalence of forced labor in their supply chains. In response, the United States has taken significant legislative action, including banning the import of goods made at least in part by forced labor. These laws are significantly limited in their ability to address the problem, however. Private litigation by victims of forced labor is another potentially powerful mechanism. The Alien Tort Statute was a promising avenue for civil suits, but recent Supreme Court decisions have severely limited that option. In its place, some plaintiffs have turned to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”). However, the Act’s civil liability provisions are not well suited for supply chain situations. Thus, this Article proposes a minor but potentially impactful reform of the TVPRA by utilizing terms from the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; these terms were specifically designed to determine a corporation’s connection to an adverse human rights impact and the corporation’s necessary response. Incorporating these terms will allow victims of forced labor to use the TVPRA to hold corporations accountable when they are complicit in forced labor violations in their supply chains.