A US federal judge is allowing a lawsuit accusing Crowley Maritime and an employee of sex trafficking and forced labour to go forward.

District Judge Marcia Morales Howard ruled that Salvadoran national Vanessa Treminio has plausible arguments that she was trafficked and forced to work after being groped by her boss, Juan Emilio Blanco, then had her employment prospects threatened if she did not go with him on a trip to Crowley’s Florida headquarters, where he allegedly raped her.

“Blanco’s alleged plan to use a business opportunity to lure Treminio into a vulnerable position where he could sexually assault her raises a reasonable inference that the things of value [she kept her job and the threats of termination ended] were received on account of the sex act,” Judge Morales Howard wrote in court papers published on 5 January.