Several lawyers have filed lawsuits against multiple hotel chains, accusing them of not doing anything to stop human trafficking on their premises.
They have requested for a federal panel to consolidate at least 21 lawsuits pending in 11 states into a single case in federal court in Columbus.
“Human traffickers have capitalized on the hospitality industry’s refusal to adopt and implement industry-wide standards and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, training hotel staff on how to identify obvious and well-known signs of sex trafficking,” according to a court filing earlier this month seeking to consolidate the cases.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said that she was trafficked for months, and that hotel chains knew that she was being forced to have sex with multiple johns a day. However, they didn’t do anything to help her. Hotel staff overlooked signs of trafficking, including payments for rooms in cash and trash cans full of condoms.
“Despite her desperate pleas and screams for help, after being beaten or choked at the Defendants’ hotel properties, the hotel staff ignored her and did nothing to prevent the ongoing and obvious torture she endured while she was regularly trafficked for sex at Defendants’ hotel properties,” her lawsuit said.
Another plaintiff in the lawsuit said that she was trafficked out of hotels owned by Wyndham Hotels in Virginia in 2012. She claims she was forced to perform sex act on men at least seven times a day.
“I felt invisible the whole entire time,” she said. “That was the worst part, is knowing that people knew and nobody was willing to help.”
Paul Pennock, an attorney with the New York-based firm Weitz & Luxenberg, said that the settlement could run into the billions of dollars.
“When you have something of that magnitude, the hotel industry, that dictates almost everything that happens in a hotel down to the writing pads next to your phone, need to take account of it and do something about it,” Pennock said.
The hotels named in the lawsuits, including Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels International, didn’t comment on the lawsuit, but said that they take human trafficking very seriously and do everything possible to stop it.
“We condemn human trafficking in any form,” Wyndham Hotels said in a statement.