Report spotlights U.S. human-trafficking laws

Much of the challenges around countering human trafficking and sexual exploitation in hospitality are a result of misconceptions, so let's dispel them.
Fourteen states have penalties, as low as $50 and up to $5,000, for hotels that do not comply with human trafficking laws. Photo credit: Gettyimages, Professor25

As more states pass laws requiring lodging facilities to provide employees with human-trafficking training or at least display signage calling attention to the issue, it can become difficult to keep up with the current rules.

With the financial support of the American Hotel & Lodging Association Educational Foundation, ECPAT-USA, an antitrafficking policy organization, has prepared a report detailing the applicable state laws now in effect. As states are actively considering adding new legislation, the organization plans to update its survey on a semiannual basis to reflect the changing landscape.

The report, “Unpacking Human Trafficking: A Survey of State Laws Targeting Human Trafficking in the Hospitality Industry,” lays out the different requirements of each state’s laws, including required languages, font size, minimum poster size and if a specific poster is required. Fourteen states have penalties for not complying, with fines as low as $50 and as high as $5,000.

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Related Story: 5 misconceptions about human trafficking in hospitality

Some takeaways ECPAT-USA offered:

  • Thirteen states require signage: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia
  • Seven states require signage if the lodging facility has been cited as a public nuisance: Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island
  • Twelve states recommend signage: Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin
  • Fourteen states have penalties for noncompliance: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina
  • Four states require training: California, Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey
  • Eleven states recommend training: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont

ECPAT-USA offers posters that comply with individual states’ laws, as well as some other resources for those in the hospitality business, on its website.

Other Legal Issues

Mar Brettmann, executive director at Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking, offered two training sessions at the 2019 My Place Hotels of America Convention in San Diego. During her talks, she raised another way hotels can find themselves in legal trouble outside of not complying with signage or training laws: criminal and civil penalties for not doing enough to stop trafficking.

Right now, she said, there is a sex-trafficking victim in Houston suing 15 hotel chains and seeking damages of about $1 million. In another recent case, a federal court ruled that a hotel’s insurance company did not need to cover a civil suit made against it in which a victim claimed the hotel did not do enough to protect her.

Related Story: 5 tips to combat human trafficking in hotels

“The best way to protect your hotel is to get training for your staffs and set policies and a culture in which your staff know that if they come forward and report this activity, that you will listen and that you will be glad that they have reported the activity,” she said.

During her presentation, Brettmann offered some possible indicators of human trafficking hotels should watch out for:

  • Evidence of violence, abuse or coercion
  • Any level of unusual control
  • Few or no personal possessions
  • A young person behaving like an adult
  • An excessive number of condoms, towels, hotel keys, cell phones
  • A heavy flow of guests to the room

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