- Take the high ground. A major challenge for hotel workers who face harassment is that they are often placed in a situation where they must choose whether to confront the harassment immediately or effectively accept it as part of the job. One hopes that a manager will respond appropriately to a guest behaving rudely, at a minimum by ensuring that the harassed employee is permitted to avoid the offending guest. But in the moment it is important for the worker to not react in a way that could give the guest ground to stand on. For example, it’s important not to threaten or hit a guest.
- Do not remain in a dangerous situation. Taking the high ground doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be placed at risk. Where possible, avoid being alone with offensive guests.
- Report the incident to management. Managers who do not take appropriate action in response to a dangerous situation at work are not fulfilling their obligation toward employees. Except in cases where the guest has committed a clearly illegal act—for example, groping or other unwanted physical advances—management probably has discretion to address the problem as it sees fit.
- Consult with union resources or a private attorney if management doesn’t act appropriately. If a manager refuses to take any action to protect workers from guest harassment, consider reaching out to your union reps or consulting with an outside attorney to determine whether other steps can be taken to bring the issue to light in a way that protects your rights. This latter point is vital. Unscrupulous employers may attempt unlawful retaliation against an employee who brings these kinds of complaints. Even if the employer isn’t likely to retaliate, the worker’s argument can only benefit from a professional approach.
One of the key issues raised by hotel workers in the major strike earlier this year was the prevalence of sexual harassment by guests. The issue raised important questions about how hotels address bad behavior by guests, and the options for workers who feel abused by guests but unsupported by their employers. A worker who feels that they have been harassed by guests should bear a number of things in mind.