Last month, we wrote about the challenges associated with identifying and prosecuting labor trafficking. Today, there’s a new development in the case that prompted that story.
WLKY reports that Jefferson County District Court Judge Sean Delahanty has said the allegations against Golden Palace Buffet owner Ming Wen Chen don’t constitute human trafficking. Chen and his wife were arrested in May after a yearlong investigation by Louisville Metro Police Department. Detectives say the couple forced their employees to work 12-hour shifts six days a week for almost no pay at the Outer Loop restaurant and restricted their freedom outside of work. The workers did not have passports, and some were unaware of what city they were in.
According to the news report, Delahanty said that this “may be in violation of wage and hour laws, may be in violation of human decency. I do not believe all of that constituted a crime.”
As Sgt. Andre Bottoms and others told LEO last month, labor trafficking is difficult to prove and prosecute, perhaps even more so than the related crime of sex trafficking. The line between what constitutes labor trafficking versus traditional labor violations comes down to coercion.
The WLKY report notes that the commonwealth attorney’s office can still indict Chen in circuit court and that a spokeswoman said they are aware of the case and might review it further.