Sexual harassment in the hospitality industry continues to be a problem throughout the country. With most hotel housekeepers being female and working alone cleaning rooms, these employees have been particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment.
Hospitality staff has been the victims of unwanted sexual harassment in all forms – from verbal threats to physical abuse, and even rape. Common examples of sexual harassment experienced by hotel staff include verbal harassment; guest nudity; guest solicitation of housekeepers; groping and physical intimidation by guests, including cornering employees.
Too Many Harassment Experiences
Unite Here, a labor union representing hospitality industry workers, believes a majority of housekeepers in the union have experienced sexual harassment at their job. Many hospitality industry workers fear that pressing charges against guests who engage in sexual misconduct could result in the loss of their employment.
Experts cite the inherent power imbalance between the women cleaning the rooms (often minorities with lower incomes) and the guests staying in the hotel as a fertile breeding ground for sexual harassment.
The Center for American Progress recently analyzed data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, highlighting the pervasive nature of the problem in the hospitality industry. Over 25 percent of filed sexual harassment charges occurred in service industries, with 14 percent of complaints filed by workers in the accommodations or food service industries. Women, who are a majority of workers in these industries, are the most frequent victims of sexual harassment.
A Push for Stronger Measures
Allegations of sexual harassment by celebrity chefs have become a common occurrence on social media. With growing attention to the problem of sexual harassment created by these reports, as well as victim rights campaigns like the #MeToo Movement, hospitality industry workers continue to push for stronger measures to protect themselves from sexual harassment.
Employee advocacy groups strongly urge the industry and the government to put in place proactive measures, such as providing panic buttons to workers to protect them from sexual harassment.
Since 2013, unionized hotel workers in New York City have included a panic button provision in their contract. If the hotel worker is in a situation where they are being threatened, harassed, or assaulted by a hotel guest, the panic button would immediately alert security.
In 2016, Seattle enacted a law requiring all hotels to provide housekeeping staff with panic buttons. According to Unite Here survey data, 53% of Seattle hotel housekeepers have been sexually harassed in the course of the employment.
Industry experts believe similar laws requiring panic buttons will soon be in effect in other cities, including Chicago, Las Vegas, and Miami Beach.
The hotel industry and groups representing large hotel chains including Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott, have challenged the legitimacy of panic button ordinances. Panic buttons, which range in costs from $20 to over a $1,000 per unit, can be a costly expense for hotels.
A lawsuit filed by the American Hotel & Lodging Association in December 2016 challenged the Seattle ordinance. The Association contends the inclusion of the panic button was less about providing safety to the hotel workers, and really about camouflaging more controversial parts of the law, which involved the blacklisting of guests with histories of assault and the payment of overtime, depending on when a worker cleans a certain area.
Middletown Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Represent Employees and Harassment Complaints
The experienced Middletown sexual harassment lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represent New Jersey employees and employers in a wide variety of employment related matters, including sexual harassment claims. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.