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Slew Of Lawsuits Accuse Major Hotel Chains Of Ignoring, Profiting From Sex Trafficking

Hilton is one of several major hotel chains accused of ignoring sex trafficking at their properties.
Hilton is one of several major hotel chains accused of ignoring sex trafficking at their properties.
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How much responsibility do major hotel chains bear if women are being trafficked at their properties?

It’s the question at the heart of a handful of lawsuits that have been filed across the country over the last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, which leans on a rarely-used federal sex trafficking law that allows for civil suits to be brought against parties that knew or should have known that sex trafficking was going on and benefitted financially from it. The hotel chains named in the suits, which include Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham and Choice Hotels International, have said in legal documents that they can’t control what happens on the premises of their franchise locations and that they have recently created policies that provide training opportunities for hotel employees to learn how to spot signs of trafficking. The lawsuits argue that employees should have recognized patterns like guests paying for rooms entirely in cash for multiple-week stays, repeated requests for new sheets and towels and men frequenting rooms multiple times each night with no luggage. They also argue that online reviews where posters mentioned trafficking should have been seen and investigated.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll discuss how the plaintiffs and defendants will make their case in court and explore the legal principles at play when it comes to how responsible parent companies are for what happens on their franchisees’ premises.


Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor and founding member of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Wu, Grohovsky & Whipple where his areas of practice include white collar crimes; he tweets @shanlonwu

Travis Gemoets, labor and employment partner at the Los Angeles offices of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP where he’s also a member of the firm’s Global Hospitality Group, which specializes in legal representation of hotel owners and lenders