Spurred by the progress and changes happening to protect employees across the nation and the world, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) is pushing for change in the hospitality industry. Hotel and resort workers are not immune from the same civil rights issues plaguing boardrooms and offices across the nation.
Last fall, the AHLA joined forces with leading hotel chains to set new standards for preventing sexual harassment and assault of the millions of employees working in hotels and resorts throughout the U.S. Their efforts culminated in a 5-Star Promise to create a culture where every hotel worker feels safe from harassment.
The 5-Star Promise asks hotel management to:
Create an environment that focuses on people first
Institute mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies
Introduce training programs to help workers recognize and prevent sexual harassment
Partner with outside agencies to receive ongoing guidance for keeping workers safe
Provide personal safety devices to all hotel workers nationwide by 2020
The AHLA is also working with legislators to support a bill requiring emergency alert buttons for certain hotel employees.
Hospitality Workers and Sexual Harassment
The hotel industry is unique in that many employees work alone, especially housekeeping staff. They are especially vulnerable to unwanted verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature. The problem is so prevalent that some cities are providing workers with “panic buttons” to alert others if they believe they are in danger. In 2016, Seattle passed a law requiring all housekeeping employees to carry panic buttons at all times. In that city alone, more than half of housekeeping workers report being harassed at some point during their careers.
Workplace Sexual Harassment and the Law
Federal and state laws prohibit sexual harassment at work – not just from a boss or manager, but from colleagues as well as customers or clients. Sexual harassment takes many different forms. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that interferes with an individual’s ability to do their job or creates a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment can be:
Unwanted physical advances
Offensive sexual- or gender-based comments or jokes
Offers of advancement or other incentives in return for sexual favors
Victims of sexual harassment who ask the perpetrator to stop and report the behavior to their employer without resolution may consider filing a sexual harassment claim against their employer.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Title VII are important forms of legal protection against workplace sexual harassment. They require employers to do whatever is in their power to prevent, investigate and handle sexual harassment complaints involving their employees. If they are made aware of gender- or sex-based verbal or physical abuse and fail to act, they can be held liable and may be required to pay compensation for financial and psychological damages.