Hotel sexual assault and sexual abuse is an issue of concern for both workers and patrons. Reports of inappropriate activity taking place in hotels, motels, and resorts indicate that proper safety measures are not always enforced. Federal and Arizona state laws allow victims of sexual attacks to pursue justice in civil court for the physical, mental and emotional trauma inflicted upon them. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your claim, liability may include the individual perpetrator, hotel staff members, and the hotel operator.


What Is Considered Sexual Assault or Abuse?


Forms of sexual assault include:


  • Rape
  • Forcible sodomy (anal or oral penetration, against a person’s will)
  • Attempted rape
  • Sexual contact with someone who is drunk or incapacitated
  • Unwanted or coerced kissing or sexual touching
  • Any sexual contact with a minor
  • Threats of sexual violence or repeated attempts at sexual contact


Sexual harassment claims may also be pursued when a person is the target of sexual innuendo and jokes, propositioned for sexual favors, repeatedly pressured for sex, or otherwise harassed based on one’s sex, gender, or sexual orientation.


How Common Are Sexual Assaults in Hotels?


The #MeToo movement exposed hotels as a hotbed for sexual harassment and assault. According to a 2018 survey of 843 women working in Hollywood, more than a third were invited to “business meetings” in private hotel rooms, where victimization was easier.


Sexual harassment is also a problem for people working in the hospitality industry. The Harvard Business Review found that up to 90 percent of women and 70 percent of men working in the industry have experienced sexual harassment in some form. At least one hotel manager in Phoenix allegedly used his position of power to lure young women into secluded settings during job interviews, so he could abuse them.


For the average hotel guest, sexual assault is a relatively rare occurrence. The National Crime Victimization Survey reported hotels as the location of 0.3 percent of violent crimes each year. Even so, that can mean 7,840 sexual assaults reported in hotel settings annually. Many more incidents go unreported.


Guest Sexual Assault in Hotels


Staying away from home should be a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable experience. Hotel owners are expected to maintain properties that are “reasonably safe from harm.” When they fail to do so, they are liable for injuries that result from their negligence.


A sexual assault lawyer can look into hotel protocol to determine:


  • Are employees taking the right safety measures to secure the facility?
  • Are hotel staff members trained to detect threats to their guests?
  • Are the backgrounds of hotel staff members thoroughly vetted prior to hiring?


In one story, a woman on a business trip was assaulted by a stranger who was able to obtain a room key from the front desk without showing proper identification. This incident could have been prevented with proper training and oversight.


Sexual Abuse in the Hospitality Industry


Hotel workers have a right to come to a place of employment that does not tolerate sexual harassment of any form. Sexual abuse in the workplace is a form of discrimination protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is unlawful for an entity, its agents, or supervisors to harass employees, allow the harassment of employees, and fail to take immediate, appropriate corrective action.


Employers are responsible for:


  • Hiring – It is routine to expect background checks on all employees. Anyone with a record of sexual harassment, domestic violence, public perversion, or sexual assault may pose a threat to the working environment.
  • Supervision – Supervisors are expected to remain vigilant in regard to what is happening among staff members. In some cases, it is reasonable to argue a supervisor in their knowledge what was going on, based on obvious signs.
  • Retention – There should be a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, whether perpetrated by a contractor, intern, job applicant, staff member, or manager. When supervisors are notified of misconduct, they are expected to take swift action to mitigate the threat. After an investigation, it may be necessary to send the accused employee to training or counseling, or to transfer them, suspend them without pay, or terminate the employee. Victims must be allowed appropriate leave to recover. It is unlawful for employers to terminate, fail to promote, or reduce wages of victims of sexual assault or harassment.


Hotel employers can also be responsible for failing to protect their workers from predatory guests. In addition to having surveillance cameras installed, major hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt have rolled out panic buttons for housekeeping staff who fear for their safety. In Seattle, local law requires any hotel with more than 60 guest rooms to install a safety device for their staff. New Jersey implemented similar legislation, effective in 2020.


Should You File a Civil Lawsuit?


Individuals who are sexually assaulted or abused have two legal recourses: to press criminal charges or to file a civil lawsuit. In many cases, victims are able to do both. While the end goal of the criminal justice system is to determine guilt or innocence and punish the guilty party, the goals of the civil justice system are more geared toward compensating victims for the losses they have suffered.


Benefits of pursuing a civil lawsuit include:


  • Lower standard of evidence – Rather than proving your case “beyond a reasonable doubt” as in criminal court, you need only corroborate your facts “based on a preponderance of the evidence” in civil court. Jurors must believe your version of the truth is 51 percent or more likely to have happened. Admission of guilt is not necessary for damages to be awarded in civil court.
  • Third-party liability – Only the individual perpetrator can be punished in criminal court. Civil court allows for an expanded definition of liability, which includes the hotel or motel operator as well. These entities are generally insured well enough to cover the full cost of the suit.
  • Compensation – Criminal cases may result in fines payable to the State of Arizona. In a civil lawsuit, victims may be entitled to financial recompense for lost wages, medical expenses, therapy bills, and any out-of-pocket expenses associated with their recovery.


In addition to a lawsuit, employees assaulted or abused in the workplace may also file a formal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


If you have questions about filing a hotel assault lawsuit, reach out to Showard Law Firm to discuss your claim for free in a confidential consultation.