Home Publisher's Point of View Lodging Industry far from Immune to Sexual Harassment

Lodging Industry far from Immune to Sexual Harassment

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Glenn Hasek

It took a while—years, in fact—but a movement to equip housekeepers with panic buttons is gaining momentum around the country. The unending revelations about sexual harassment in the workplace and in other situations in recent months is fueling the momentum. There is no way around it: attention to housekeeper safety in our industry is long past due. It is one of our industry’s most embarrassing ongoing problems.

How bad is it? A survey conducted by Unite Here Local 1 in Chicago found that the women who work in Chicagoland hotels and casinos face a high level of sexual harassment, mainly from male guests. Forty-nine percent of housekeepers surveyed have had guest(s) expose themselves, flash them, or answer the door naked. Sixty-five percent of casino cocktail servers surveyed have had a guest grope, pinch or grab them or try to touch them in an unwelcome way. Can you imagine experiencing that in your work place?

Last fall, the Chicago City Council voted unanimously to pass the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance to protect Chicago hotel workers, the majority of whom are women of color and immigrants, from sexual harassment and assault. The ordinance covers all Chicago hotel workers, both union and non-union, requiring hotels to provide panic buttons to anyone who works alone in guest rooms and restrooms. The ordinance also protects hotel workers from retaliation when they report sexual violence by guests and mandates hotels to implement an anti-sexual harassment policy.

Panic Buttons in Seattle

Seattle voters in November 2016 voted in favor of Initiative 124, which was backed by the local chapter of Unite Here, the hotel workers’ union. The initiative requires hotels with 60 or more rooms to issue panic buttons to employees who work alone in guestrooms.

Two California state assemblymen have proposed a bill that would require hotels to equip housekeepers with portable panic buttons they can press when threatened. It is the first of its kind to be proposed on a statewide basis.

The Associated Press reported this past week that the Culinary Union, the union representing tens of thousands of hotel workers in Las Vegas, will ask casino-resort operators to give every housekeeper a panic button as it begins negotiating new contracts amid the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct.

In the California bill, hotels would be required to keep records of all guests accused of either assault or harassment on file for five years. When a hotel employee under oath accuses a guest of sexual harassment or violence, that guest would be barred from the hotel for three years. The same policy is in place in Seattle. Chicago’s policy does not call for the banning of harassers.

In New York City, housekeepers at unionized hotels have been carrying panic buttons—wireless devices that alert managers if they are attacked—since 2013.

Worse in the United Kingdom?

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Unite’s preliminary research gathered from workers in the hospitality industry found that 89 percent said they had experienced one or more incidents of sexual harassment in their working life. Testimony from workers suggests sexual harassment is happening in plain sight, with many employers accused of failing to protect staff from regular abuse.

And, I am sure you did not miss the Wall Street Journal report detailing allegations against billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn. In one instance, Wynn allegedly forced a manicurist to have sex. “Mr. Wynn later paid the manicurist a $7.5 million settlement, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Journal said.

I have not seen any survey results showing what percentage of U.S. hotel companies have a written policy regarding sexual harassment. In the U.K. Unite research, when asked whether their workplace had an anti-sexual harassment policy in place, 77 percent said no, or they did not know.

Anthony Marshall, an industry legal expert who sadly passed more than 10 years ago, frequently wrote about hotels taking “reasonable care” when it comes to the protection of guests and staff. My take is that our industry is not yet doing enough to protect its employees from their peers and guests, and guests are not being reminded enough of their duty to respect hotel employees—especially housekeepers.

Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

Green Lodging News Adds Global Sustainability Solutions Case Study to Website

Green Lodging News has added a Global Sustainability Solutions (GSS) case study to its website. The case study details how GSS was able to coordinate the recycling of nearly 400 older flat-panel hotel TVs at the Hilton Newark Airport. GSS worked with LG Electronics to replace each set with a new 43-inch Energy Star certified LG flat screen TV. GSS also installed 49-inch LG hotel TVs in the Hilton’s suites. The project was completed in just four days’ time—two days earlier than anticipated, minimizing impact on guests. Due to the pilot’s success, LG and Hilton are extending the program into 2018 with plans to replace old sets with LG 4K Ultra HD hotel TVs, while continuing their shared commitment to responsible electronics recycling.

Virginia Green Travel Conference Set for March 1 to 2

I will be one of the keynote speakers at the 5th Annual Virginia Green Travel Conference & Travel Star Awards. The event will take place March 1 to 2 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center and is being put together by the Virginia Green Travel Alliance. The event will feature two days packed with keynote speaker presentations, educational sessions, Green Tourism Business Expo, Travel Star Awards and much more. My presentation is entitled, “Trends in Hotel Sustainability: The Convergence of Awareness, Inspiration & Innovation.” I hope to see you there.

Suppliers interested in exhibiting during the Green Tourism Business Expo should contact Tom Griffin, Executive Director of the Virginia Green Travel Alliance at (804) 986-9119, or by e-mail at tom@greenerresults.com. Hoteliers can register for the conference here.
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Who is Your Sustainability Champion?

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