Woman sues major hotel chains alleging they failed to stop sex trafficking at their properties

Human trafficking happens behind locked doors in hotels across the United States. The hospitality industry is being taught to recognize the signs of abuse.

Posted: Dec 11, 2019 3:49 AM
Updated: Dec 11, 2019 2:44 PM


A woman who says she was the victim of sex trafficking in 2012 and 2013 at multiple hotels in Oregon and Washington is suing six major hotel chains in federal court, saying they neglected trafficking happening 'openly on hotel properties' and failed to intervene 'to continue earning a profit.'

'Rather than taking timely and effective measures to thwart this epidemic,' the suit said, 'defendant hotels have instead chosen to ignore the open and obvious presence of sex trafficking on their properties, enjoying the profit from rooms rented for this explicit and apparent purpose.'

The suit, filed Monday in US District Court in Portland, names Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc., Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Choice Hotels Corp., Extended Stay America and Red Lion Hotels Corp., as defendants.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings said the hotel property where the suit alleges the trafficking took place is independently owned and operated, but issued a statement saying, 'Hilton condemns all forms of human trafficking, including for sexual exploitation. As signatories of the ECPAT [formerly End Child Prostitution and Trafficking] Code since 2011, we are fully committed, in each and every one of our markets, to protecting individuals from all forms of abuse and exploitation.'

'We condemn human trafficking in any form,' Wyndham Hotels & Resorts said in a statement. 'Through our partnerships with the International Tourism Partnership, ECPAT-USA, Polaris Project and other organizations that share the same values, we have worked to enhance our policies condemning human trafficking while also providing training to help our team members, as well as the hotels we manage, identify and report trafficking activities.'

Extended Stay America also condemned human trafficking in a statement to CNN.

'We require all our associates to be trained on identifying the signs of human trafficking and on how to report them,' the statement said.

Marriott International issued a statement saying, 'While we are not commenting on the specifics of the litigation, Marriott International is working to help combat the horrific crime of human trafficking in hotels. Marriott International developed training in partnership with leading human rights organizations to teach its hotel workers to recognize the signs of human trafficking and how to respond. The company made the training mandatory for all its hotel workers in 2017; to date, more than 700,000 employees have completed the training.'

A statement from Choice Hotels said, 'Choice Hotels condemns human trafficking and, as a signatory of ECPAT's Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, we are committed to working with our independently owned and operated franchised hotels to combat this violation of human rights. We provide resources and training to management and employees of our franchised hotels, including from the Department of Homeland Security and ECPAT, to help educate and arm them with the tools they need to help identify and stop human trafficking.'

Red Lion Hotels Corp. could not immediately be reached for comment.

'Hotel employees are making a difference each and every day by identifying and reporting instances of human trafficking,' said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association trade group. 'We know there's always more that can be done and we are committed to doing whatever is needed to end human trafficking.'

The woman bringing the suit is identified as A.B. in the suit and was trafficked for commercial sex at the age of 22 in Oregon and Washington, the suit says.

'A.B. was subject to repeated instances of rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, exploitation, psychological torment, and false imprisonment at the Defendants' hotels from September 2012 to March 2013,' the suit alleges.

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