Hotels and motels are one of the most common venues for sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. It is unsurprising, therefore, that dozens of lawsuits have been filed against hotels and motels over the last several years, alleging that they have facilitated sex trafficking on their premises.
On Monday, December 9, 2019, attorneys from Weitz & Luxenberg law firm, representing victims of commercial sexual exploitation, moved for a transfer of actions and consolidation of at least 21 lawsuits by these victims against various hotels. The motion filed asks a panel of federal judges in Columbus, Ohio to consolidate at least 21 of these lawsuits into one lawsuit. The current individual suits are pending in 11 states, including Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington State.
Paul Pennock, a Weitz & Luxenberg attorney, claims that there are already 1,500 victims of sex trafficking whom have retained attorneys in the many lawsuits already filed, and expects as many as 7,000 over time. A few of the major hotels that have been named in the lawsuits include Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Best Western International, and Marriott International.
The lawsuits all present an all-too-familiar story: women held captive in hotel rooms, for weeks or even months, sold to upwards of 10 sex buyers a day, brutally beaten, and, at the heart of these lawsuits, ignored by hotel management and employees. Despite the clear signs of abuse and commercial sexual exploitation and despite the strong indications of the presence of the commercial sex trade’s presence in the hotels, including trashcans full of condoms, a constant flow of men in and out of the same hotel room, and rooms paid for in cash, the hotels failed to take any action to ensure the safety of the women or to report it to the authorities.
These victims and their legal advocates now are moving to hold these hotels accountable for their failures to act and, thus, their facilitation of commercial sexual exploitation. Attorneys in the case indicate that a settlement could even reach billions of dollars, due to the unfathomable size of this epidemic and evidence that hotels have long known of this problem.
When asked to comment, Wyndham Hotels only said, “we condemn human trafficking in any form.” However true that may be, actions often speak much louder than words. Due to the failure of the hospitality industry to implement industry-wide anti-trafficking trainings, policies, and procedures, human traffickers are easily able to exploit thousands of victims in these venues every year.
The CSE Institute urges the hospitality industry to take hold of this problem and confront it with tangible solutions, such as mandatory trainings for all management and employees on how to recognize the signs of sex trafficking in hotels and what to do if they suspect it. The CSE Institute also urges the industry to stop their practice of turning a blind eye to the commercial sexual exploitation happening within their hotels and, instead, to become a leading force in stopping this exploitation all together. Finally, the CSE Institute recognizes the need for legislation in this area that would require, by law, these types of trainings, policies, and procedures to be implemented in every hotel and motel in the country.