Most people don't give much thought to the person who cleans their hotel room. They may see a note saying the name of the person who cleaned the room, ask the housekeeper for more towels, or leave a tip upon checkout. However, there is a much darker side to the job of cleaning hotel rooms. Hotel workers have some of the highest rates of sexual harassment while at work. To make it worse, much of the harassment goes unreported.
According to an article in The Nation, 8 in 10 hotel workers have been harassed at work. The group Stand with Women Against Abuse says that female hotel workers are regularly exposed to offensive and predatory actions on the job. The majority have faced verbal aggression or sexual harassment at work. The group even proposes giving hotel staff a “panic button,” to call for help in an emergency situation.
In Chicago, housekeeper Claudia Virto said she was cleaning a hotel room when the guest came out walking towards her completely naked. She ran out, and complained to management but the hotel did nothing, and did not report the incident to police. Another employee, Appolonia Rivera reported a man that was exposing himself to the housekeeper by opening his bathrobe. Her supervisor only laughed about the situation.
The head of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association told a local CBS affiliate that sexual harassment of housekeeping staff was not a problem. However, advocates disagree, saying these workers, primarily immigrant women working in isolated conditions are vulnerable to sexual assault. A number of housekeepers at Chicago-area hotels eventually go so tired of the way hotel supervisors and management handled the situations that they took to protesting.
A study of female hotel workers in 5-star hotels in Australia found similarly high rates of sexual harassment. Of the 46 women who were interviewed as part of the story, 44 reported some kind of inappropriate actions from male guests, including propositions for sex and sexual assaults. According to Sandra Kensbock, the lead author of the study, “We found guest-initiated sexual harassment to be pervasive and normalized within the hotel workplace.”
Sexual harassment on the job does not only come from hotel guests, it can also come from supervisors. Two former housekeepers at a Fairfield Inn near Bourbonnais, Illinois filed a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit. One of the housekeepers said the manager forced her to have sex with him more than 100 times in the two years she worked at the hotel. Two other women may have been fired after they stood up to the manager's unwelcomed sexual advances.
If you or a family member have been harassed while at work, it is important to speak out so that this kind of behavior does not go on and potentially harm others. Speak with an experienced sexual harassment attorney who understands your rights, who will stop the harassment, and fight to protect your job, your position, and your reputation. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.