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New law requires Oregon bar and restaurant employees to report suspected sex trafficking

Image from OLCC website

Bar and restaurant employees in Oregon will be required to report suspected sex trafficking when a new law takes effect January 1st.

Senate Bill 515 applies to anyone who works at a business that serves alcohol. If those employees have any reason to believe that another employee, a customer, or anyone else on the premises is being made to engage in commercial sexual activity against their will, that employee will be required to call police andnotify the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

Joel Shapiro, the director of the Portland-based Trafficking Law Center, told lawmakers during a hearing in May that he supports the idea. “Raising awareness is really one of the first goals in addressing the problem,” he said.

"If we have more people ... who have training to see the warning signs and red flags about sex trafficking, we can do much better as a society to report potential sex trafficking incidents and intervene in those situations," said Shapiro.

The law also requires bar and restaurant workers to notify law enforcement if they have reason to believe that a minor is employed as a performer, regardless of whether the minor is being forced to engage in commercial sexual activity.

Employees who file a report that turns out to be incorrect won’t be penalized for making a good faith effort. But the law allows the OLCC to fine workers who were aware of the illegal activities but failed to report them.

Oregon lawmakers approved the bill with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

The only lawmaker to vote against the bill to require bar and restaurant employees to report suspected cases of sex trafficking was Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Myrtle Creek. Heard also serves as chair of the Oregon Republican Party.

Copyright 2021 KLCC. To see more, visit KLCC.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”