Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, hotels can be held both civilly and criminally liable for allowing sex trafficking to occur on their premises. This law is now being put into play against three major hotel chains in federal court in Texas. In December 2019, victims in Houston filed three federal lawsuits alleging they were forced into sex trafficking inside South Texas hotels. The chains being sued include Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, dba LaQuinta Inn & Suites, Hilton Worldwide Holdings, dba Doubletree by Hilton, and Choice Hotels-Comfort Inn brands.
Failure to Stop Sex Trafficking
Major hotel chains are increasingly facing legal fire for the failure of their franchisees to take steps to prevent sex trafficking from occurring on their premises. In the past, hotel chains have placed the responsibility on the backs of their franchisees in order to shield themselves from liability. These lawsuits represent a novel effort to hold the parent companies responsible and prevent them from turning a blind eye toward trafficking on their properties.
In each lawsuit, the Jane Doe plaintiffs allege that the hotel chains functioned as a “perpetrator” under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act because they benefitted by receiving financial and other compensation as a result of human trafficking. The lawsuits allege that staff members of the hotels failed to prevent illicit activities on hotel properties and ignored clear signs that trafficking was taking place. These signs included excessive male traffic outside the hotel rooms, customers paying for rooms with cash or prepaid cards, and minors paying for hotel rooms.
The National Sex Trafficking Hotline notes that hotels are frequently where sex trafficking occurs. Hotels renting rooms to traffickers to be used as sex trafficking sites are making a profit off of the activity. Therefore, it makes sense to hold the hotels liable. Hotels parent companies have an obligation to ensure that their franchisees are providing the appropriate training to staff on how to recognize the signs of sex trafficking and how to take appropriate action.
All three hotel chains that are subjects of the lawsuits claim that they work hard to fight sex trafficking on their premises. However, it is clear from the lawsuits that they are not fighting hard enough as it still occurring, and they continue to profit from trafficking.
Contact a Trusted Civil Rights Attorney
If you have been the victim of sex trafficking, you want an experienced civil rights attorney on your side. Gregg Goldfarb has been helping victims for over 20 years. Contact us online or call us at 305-374-7000 to schedule a free consultation.