by Bhavesh Patel
AAHOA Chairman (2017-2018)
Human trafficking is considered the second largest and fastest growing illegal industry in the world, affecting an estimated 12.3 million men, women and children.
For many affected businesses, but especially hotels, human trafficking continues to be an activity that remains out of sight and out of mind. However, it is more common than you might think. Sometimes people turn a blind eye to what they see and hear, and other times the signs go completely undetected.
Because hoteliers can be held legally liable for the forced sex and labor crimes that happen on their properties, and because these serious crimes can take place at any hotel at any time, it is imperative that owners and general managers develop human resources processes and procedures that educate employees – a hotel’s first line of defense – on what to look for and how to report it.
The first step is training. Employees must be taught how to identify the signs of human trafficking, which can vary based on the employee’s position (i.e., housekeeper, bellhop, desk attendant etc.). Each employee has a role to play and they should be made aware of it from the very start of their employment. Incorporate human trafficking awareness into new-hire training to ensure that employees understand what they can do from the very beginning.
To assist in this effort, AAHOA recently partnered with the Department of Homeland Defense in support of its Blue Campaign to end human trafficking. Free training materials developed by AAHOA and DHS are available on the AAHOA website (aahoa.com/humantraffickingresources). The training videos, posters and other materials there can help educate employees and foster greater awareness and understanding of the problem.
The second step is to develop a plan of action to respond to reports of human trafficking. Put a system in place that allows employees to easily report potential cases of human trafficking to law enforcement without fear of retribution. Third, create and adopt policies that discourage employees from engaging in activities that could be linked to human trafficking (e.g., taking a “tip” from a hotel guest who may be involved in suspicious enterprise). Make sure to then enforce disciplinary action when the policies are breached.
Consider developing internal programs that allow employees who want to get more involved in assisting human trafficking victims. For example, Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking (BEST) offers a number of continuing education classes that are informative and useful as professional development opportunities. As many human resource professionals will attest, championing a worthy cause, one that employees can rally around, helps increase loyalty and boost retention. Plus, promoting a strong sense of community among staff, one that will be united and vigilant in keeping an eye on the tell-tale signs of human trafficking, can go a long way toward effective prevention.
Human trafficking increases a hotelier’s legal and financial risk. To better protect your staff, consumers and your business, I urge you to take the steps necessary to create, modify or improve your human resource policies on ethical business conduct today.