Hotel employees are not safe from sexual assaults, and they know it. If you're a hotel employee, what can you do if you fall victim? What can you expect from your employer in terms of compensation and protection from future assaults? Here's what you should know.
Sexual assault is all too common among hotel employees.
Nobody seems to be exactly sure how common sexual assault is when it comes to hotel employees, but everyone agrees that it's common enough that the story of a maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of assault sounded legitimate. While that case collapsed under credibility issues, experts say that housekeepers frequently have to deal with sexual assault and harassment while they're on the job. Worse, the assaults and harassment may not only come from guests but from their own co-workers as well.
You are usually covered under workers compensation rules for assaults on the job.
Generally speaking, if you are sexually assaulted while on the job, you're entitled to workers compensation benefits for your injuries. Any physical injuries would be covered automatically. Psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), might be a little more difficult to claim, depending on the laws in your state. Some state laws require a physical injury to "back up" the mental diagnosis, while others don't. That makes it important to have a rape kit done, if applicable, and photos taken of any bruises, no matter how slight, you may have suffered in connection with your claim. That can make it easier to convince an insurer to cover your mental health damages and therapy bills down the line.
Workers compensation may not be your exclusive remedy.
Workers comp is designed to keep claims out of courts, so it is often the exclusive remedy for an on-the-job injury—unless you can prove gross negligence on the part of your employer or that the action of an employee was intentional and personal in nature. That means that you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit, which often pays more and can award things like punitive damages or fines against your attacker.
Taking extra security measures can prevent future attacks.
Because of the nature of the work, too many hotel employees—which are largely staffed by women, although some males also work in the industry and can also end up victims—are put in the position of being alone in the rooms with their aggressors. Being asked to deliver extra towels, sheets, or a tray of food can be a set-up for an assault. Similarly, cleaning staff members are often alone while they work, making them easy targets for co-workers to sexually assault them.
Many hotels are aware of the problem but don't put protective measures in place that could prevent the incidents:
- having staff members always work in twos
- having a security guard whose job is to look after hotel staff and prevent such assaults
- making sure that the alleged victim doesn't have to come in contact with the alleged assailant again
- banning any known sexual predators from renting
In addition, your employer owes you a certain responsibility to look into the background of the employees he or she hires. If he or she hired an employee who had previous charges filed against him or her or knew that other employees had reported sexual harassment or assault problems with the same employee in the past, your employer may be guilty of negligent hiring practices. This could also give you a way around the limitations imposed by workers comp.
If you were sexually assaulted by a hotel guest or co-worker, take steps to preserve any evidence that you can, and talk to an attorney like Prediletto, Halpin, Scharnikow & Nelson, P.S. to discuss whether or not your case is likely to be limited to workers comp or if you can file a civil injury claim as well.