Human Trafficking: Hospitality Industry Liabilities and Responsibilities
The Adam Perkowsky article, “Avoid Human Trafficking Lawsuits By Learning The Signs,” Hotel Business, September 15, 2021, provides a good summary of issues involving the hospitality industry and human trafficking (HT – also known as trafficking in persons, trafficking in human beings, modern slavery). Perkowsky quotes Sabrina Atkins, an attorney at Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers LLP, on the legal basis for plantiffs’ civil lawsuits, including:
Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), 18 U.S.C. § 1595
Similar state trafficking laws, negligence and premise liability theories of recovery
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
In the case of sex trafficking, hotels can be held civilly and criminally liable for allowing it to occur on their property. The law allows the federal government or a survivor to bring a case against the trafficker, but also against any entity who financially benefited from his or her victimization and knew or should have known that the activity was a violation of human trafficking law. Notably, under federal law, buyers of sex are considered traffickers. Therefore, a hotel can be held liable to the survivor if an employee rents a room to a trafficker or a buyer and the employee knew or should have known that the room would be used for a commercial sex act (see Meghan Poole article, “Beyond Hospitality: Hotel Liability for Trafficking,”Trafficking Matters).
The Perkowsky article explains the importance of hotel staff receiving training on HT, knowing the indicators/Red Flags and how to report suspicious behavior or concerns, including:
Increased foot traffic in and out of a single room
Multiple phones or computers in a single room
A guest requesting multiple sets of towels or bed sheets in a single day
Women or young girls who appear malnourished or injured, have little luggage, no identification, no money and are constantly watched or monitored
The Perkowsky article mentions free HT training to its members by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA). Another excellent source of free HT training tailored to various hospitality industry staff positions, e.g. in-room, restaurant, lobby, security, is the ECPAT-USA online Training for Hotel Associates course (check out additional hotel tools & resources including link to Sustainable Hospitality Alliance HT resources).