Categories for Corporate Responsibility

Lawsuit Claims Detroit, Ann Arbor Hotels Ignored Signs Of Human Trafficking

February 24, 2020

A lawsuit laid out grisly details. The survivor in this lawsuit was 17 years old when she was first kidnapped (by a stranger at school), driven to a hotel and imprisoned there. Her story is not unique. The lawsuit contends that there are 1,500 human trafficking victims pointing the finger at 12 of the nations largest hotel chains, saying they should have seen the signs of trafficking going on right under their nose and done something to stop it.

Tiffany Ellis is representing the survivor in the lawsuit. The lawsuit contends that the trafficker took her right through the front doors of Detroit’s Holiday Inn Express and Ann Arbor’s Fairfield Inn to a rented room.

Each time she said there wouldn’t be any eye-contact with hotel staff, she didn’t carry any identification and didn’t have luggage. She said she was held captive, chained inside the hotel rooms in and out of consciousness. When she did wake up she said there would be evidence and pain that indicated she had been raped, but she didn’t have a memory of it.

Ellis said the woman survived one particularly gruesome rape with numerous incidents of violence that should have alerted the staff that something was going on. Ellis said the woman went to the front desk of the hotel with blood running down her legs and police weren’t called. The survivor is suing the hotels were she was trafficked between 2003 and 2008.

“She would stay for days at a time in the hotel in Ann Arbor, not come out of her room, exhibited signs of fear and anxiety was often skimpily clothed and exhibited signs of bruising on her arms and legs,” Ellis said. “There were incidents of violence there as well, rather it occurred in the room or in the hallways they should have heard through hotel security, through their guests at the hotel or even their security cameras.”

Survivors and others want to stop hotels being a haven for sex traffickers to conduct business.

“Despite all of those opportunities to see what was happening, they just kept accepting the money for the rooms,” Ellis said. “Approximately eight out of 10 arrested for any type of human trafficking occur in the countries largest hotel chains.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Marriott International are named in the Detroit lawsuit. Those are the companies representing the Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inn where she said she was trafficked.

The Local 4 Defenders discovered other survivors are suing other hotel chains around the country. Twelve hotel chains are named in lawsuits filed across the country, including names like Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Red Roof Inn, and more. Ellis said those hotels should have spotted the red flags.

To read the full story by Karen Drew and Kayla Clarke on Click On Detroit: Click Here

Three National Hotel Chains In Houston Sued For Promoting Sex Trafficking

January 23, 2020

Three sex trafficking victims have sued three major hotel chains in parallel lawsuits, claiming that the companies exercised gross negligence about on-site prostitution at Houston branches despite corporate policies that promote social responsibility.

The lawsuits, filed by advocates in December, contend that Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc., Choice Hotels International, Inc., and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Inc. have not done enough to prevent sex trafficking at their franchises.

The three women were identified by police as trafficking victims at Houston hotels owned by these chains, lawyers said. Two were teenagers at the time; one was an adult.

“Traffickers have long capitalized on the hotel industry’s refusal to adopt companywide anti-trafficking policies, refusal to train staff on what to look for and how to respond, and failure to establish a safe and secure reporting mechanism, and they have exploited the seclusion and privacy of hotel rooms,” the lawsuits said.

Annie McAdams, a plaintiffs’ lawyer involved in the team effort, has built a reputation around tackling such cases, suing Facebook, Backpage, Salesforce and truck stops for their roles in promoting sex trafficking.

The recent cases accuse the companies of negligence and violations of federal and state laws that prohibit trafficking.

“What’s notable about these cases is it’s the first effort targeted at the parent hotels. The parent companies in state court have thrown up their hands and said we’re not responsible for anything that happens at these hotel locations,” said McAdams, whose firm is partnering with others on the cases. “But they make money on branding, licensing, advertising and franchise fees.”

To read the full story by Gabrielle Banks on The Houston Chronicle: Click Here

Human Trafficking Lawsuits Allege Hotels Ignored Problem

January 20, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lawyers representing human trafficking victims want a single federal judge to oversee multiple lawsuits alleging that major hotel chains have ignored human trafficking taking place on their premises.

Attorneys have asked a federal panel to consolidate at least 21 such lawsuits pending in 11 states into a single case in federal court in Columbus, arguing that the lawsuits contain the same basic allegations.

“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.

In Columbus, a woman who was trafficked for months has sued three hotel chains, alleging they knew she was being forced to work as a prostitute in hotel rooms for days on end — forced to serve up to 10 johns a day — but hotel employees didn’t do anything.

The lawsuit says hotel staff overlooked easily observed signs of trafficking, including trash cans full of condoms, payment for rooms in cash, and refusal of housekeeping services.

“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,” according to the March 9 lawsuit.

In Virginia in 2012, a woman said she was trafficked out of hotels owned by Wyndham Hotels — such as a Super 8 in Hampton, Virginia — by a man she sought refuge with after facing homelessness. The woman was forced to perform sex acts on men at least seven times a day but sometimes twice that and her trafficker paid hotel staff to look the other way, a Dec. 2 lawsuit alleged.

The men, many of them repeat customers, entered through the front lobby, the lawsuit said.

“I felt invisible the whole entire time,” the 32-year-old woman told The Associated Press. “That was the worst part, is knowing that people knew and nobody was willing to help.”

The AP does not identify victims of sexual assault.

To read the full story by Andrew Welsh-Huggins on APNews: Click Here

A Simple Debit Card Can Help Fight Human Trafficking, U.N. Banking Group Says

November 22, 2019

NEW YORK, Sept 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Dozens of banks have signed up to a U.N. program to offer trafficking survivors accounts and debit cards, organizers said on Friday, providing tools they may lack if their captors stole their financial identity or ruined their credit.

The banking coalition, launched during the annual General Assembly meeting of the United Nations this week, includes a dozen leading banks in Austria, Canada, Great Britain and the United States.

It aims to help survivors who find traffickers hijacked their financial identity for money laundering or other crimes and spoiled their credit record.

“Having access to legitimate financial services is something many people take for granted,” said Sara Crowe, director of data analysis at the U.S.-based anti-trafficking group Polaris, in a statement.

“For too long, survivors of trafficking have faced challenges like having to cash checks at places that deduct large fees because they can’t get a basic checking or savings account.”

The scheme is among a number of projects proposed by the Liechtenstein Initiative, a year-long effort to harness the might of the global financial industry in the effort to battle human trafficking.

To read the full story by Ellen Wulfhorst on Thomson Reuters Foundation: Click Here

How Suburban State Rep Got Hotels Joining The Fight Against Human Trafficking

November 8, 2019

Hotel and motel employees are being enlisted in the fight against human trafficking in Illinois under a new state law authored by a suburban legislator.

Loquaciously called the Lodging Establishment Human Trafficking Recognition Training Act, the law mandates that workers be trained on how to recognize the signs of trafficking and report them to authorities.

That goes for all workers at all hotels — not just the local no-tell motels people might incorrectly believe are the only places where trafficking occurs.

“It goes on in all (hotels),” state Rep. Terra Costa Howard told us this week.

Costa Howard, a freshman Democrat from Glen Ellyn, introduced the bill in February. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it into law Aug. 23, and it goes into effect June 1, 2020.

Human trafficking has been at the forefront for Costa Howard since her days as an assistant public defender in DuPage County, when she represented people who might have been trafficking victims.

She said workers might notice little things that make them suspicious, such as one person doing all the talking for a couple or group, or standing in a position that indicates control over another person.

To read the full story by Keeshan and Suan Sarkauska on The Daily Herald: Click Here

Hotel Industry Unites Around Nationawide Day Of Action To Fight Human Trafficking

September 30, 2019

WASHINGTON – As part of the hotel industry’s ongoing commitment to combat human trafficking, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) launched a public service announcement (PSA) raising awareness about the No Room for Trafficking Campaign, which unites the industry around a single, comprehensive approach to fight human trafficking.

The launch of the PSA also marks the No Room for Trafficking Day of Action, where hoteliers across the country are uniting and taking action by hosting training sessions for employees, raising awareness on their properties and pledging their commitment to the No Room for Trafficking Action Plan. The PSA is available to view online at AHLA’s website and will be included as part of the #NoRoom social media campaign.

“In the fight against human trafficking, the hotel industry is united in our commitment to being part of the solution,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA President & CEO. “By taking action to provide human trafficking awareness training for our employees and the sharing of hotel industry best practices, we hope to serve as an example for other industries, while finding new opportunities to partner across the tourism sector and those joining us in this important fight.”

Hoteliers play an important role in combating trafficking through raising awareness, improved coordination with law enforcement and ongoing workforce education and awareness.  Already each year, tens of thousands of hotel employees are trained on how to identify and act to stop instances of human trafficking.  With this campaign and day of action, AHLA builds on the industry’s record by convening the entire sector with the goal of training every hotel worker.

AHLA kicked off the day of action in Washington, D.C. by partnering with ECPAT-USA to host a human trafficking prevention training session for local hotel employees at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.


To read the full story by Vicky Karantzavelou on Travel Daily News: Click Here

August, 2019 Monthly Reflection

August 1, 2019

Better Companies, Better World

Linda Haydock, SNJM

To change corporate business practices on human trafficking is a long-term, demanding, and often daunting task. Let us celebrate the progress we have made.

A powerful alliance is formed when religious women and men, ecumenical and interfaith groups, and non-profit partners bring their faith to bear in the boardrooms of the largest corporations in the world. In twenty years, there are many accomplishments in addressing human trafficking through shareholder advocacy.

Four areas are noteworthy:

  • Major movement to stem human trafficking in the tourism industry;
  • Success in reducing human trafficking in the business supply chain;
  • An emerging call to the tech sector for vigilance concerning child exploitation online;
  • Companies adopting ethical recruitment policies and practices.

Many years and many partnerships have been devoted to addressing sex trafficking taking place in hotels and through airline travel. The result is that almost every major hotel chain has signed the “The Code” to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Nearly one million employees have received training to prevent exploitation; identify and report suspected cases of human trafficking, and to support children’s rights. American and Delta airlines are among those who trained employees, publish notices about human trafficking in their onboard magazines or engaged in efforts to protect children. The next plane you board, ask the flight attendant if she/he has received training about human trafficking.

It is a challenge to keep a careful watch on the corporate supply chain from the sourcing of raw materials to the finished product. Shareholder resolutions and dialogues with numerous companies have created accountability. What does a win-win-win look like for vulnerable people, shareholders and companies?

An example is The Hershey Company. What is not to like about chocolate? Child labor! It was religious shareholders’ concern twelve years ago about child labor on the cocoa farms in the African countries of Ghana and the Ivory Coast that prompted dialogue with Hershey. These many years later we celebrate Hershey’s commitment to 100% certifiable and sustainable cocoa by 2020, which is free of child labor; the $500 million “Cocoa for Good Program” to nourish and empower children and preserve natural eco-systems in the Ivory Coast and Ghana; and the adoption of a Human Rights Policy that includes ethical recruitment.

Whether it concerns our food, clothes or household products, it is incumbent upon each of us to raise our consciousness about the human story in the supply chain. Judy Byron, OP, invites us to ask, “Could I have a human trafficking footprint?” When I put on a shirt in the morning or make a food choice for my evening meal, it is an opportunity to reflect on the story behind the label. A choice of “Fair Trade” can ensure that one is contributing to the dignity of workers.

Thirdly, the tech sector possesses enormous potential to solve global problems, and conversely, it can exacerbate age-old issues. Recently Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) illuminated the potential dark side of the tech sector, child pornography. Through a shareholder resolution, CBIS called Verizon’s Corporate Board to issue a report on the potential sexual exploitation of children through the Company’s products and services. The result, 33.7 percent of Verizon’s shareholders voted in favor of the resolution! It is more than hopeful that there is an increasing awareness among shareholders that they have a voice in setting the direction of the company. If you have a retirement portfolio, a money manager or investments, be sure that you or your manager examine and vote the proxies of the companies in which you are invested.

Fourthly, a critical area of focus in shareholder advocacy in modern day slavery is to request the ethical recruitment of workers. The global economy creates a climate where labor brokers charge worker outrageous recruitment fees, take travel documents and do not provide contracts. It can take years for a migrant worker to pay back the debt incurred. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is leading the No fees Campaign to support ethical recruitment. To date, 40 companies including Walmart, Ford, Hormel and Archer Daniels Midland have committed to “no worker paid fees.”

Please join the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking in our continuing efforts to require business transparency. Ask your Congress member to support the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019.

Hotel Industry Unites On New Campaign To Fight Human Trafficking

July 22, 2019

WASHINGTON – The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) launched a new national campaign to unite the industry around a single, comprehensive approach to fight human trafficking. The No Room for Trafficking campaign builds on the hotel industry’s long-standing legacy and commitment to combat human trafficking. Already each year, thousands of hotel employees are trained. With this campaign, AHLA builds on the industry’s record by convening the entire industry with the goal of training every hotel worker.

“No Room for Trafficking sends a loud and clear message: we will not tolerate human trafficking in the hotel industry,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “Thanks to our dedicated associates, our industry already has a strong record of combatting trafficking and supporting survivors. There is still much more to do, and our commitment to training and education will continue to make a difference.”

The hotel industry has long recognized the critical role it plays in ending the scourge of human trafficking, and through innovative techniques and employee training has played an instrumental role in identifying, reporting and stopping instances of human trafficking.

AHLA kicked-off the campaign at a strategic roundtable today bringing together industry leaders, government partners, law enforcement and national trafficking prevention partners to underscore the industry’s efforts around human trafficking.

Since trafficking networks often rely on legitimate businesses – many in the tourism supply chain – to sustain their illicit and illegal operations, hoteliers are uniquely positioned to identify and disrupt this terrible practice. Hoteliers can play an important role in combatting trafficking through raising awareness, improved coordination with law enforcement, and ongoing workforce training.

The No Room for Trafficking campaign outlines four core pillars to bring the hotel industry together and build upon current efforts:

  • Elevate issue awareness through increased education, resources and training for all hotel employees;
  • Assess protocols, procedures, and technologies to confirm training effectiveness and employee vigilance;
  • Educate by developing strategic intervention and disruption strategies to identify and report suspected trafficking situations; and
  • Support by furthering partnerships with leading national human trafficking and law enforcement organizations to establish industry standards and support survivors.

As part of the campaign, AHLA is providing new resources and materials for members, including the following:

  • Action Plan for hoteliers to implement that includes training staff on what to look for and how to respond; displaying human trafficking indicator signage; establishing a companywide policy; ongoing coordination with law enforcement; and sharing success stories and best practices.  
  • Companywide anti-trafficking policy template for members who may not already have a policy in place that incorporates key elements and recommendations from AHLA partners End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) and Polaris.
  • Strategic partnerships with leading national prevention partners including ECPAT-USA, Polaris, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), SafeHouse Project, the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and many others.
  • Member Resource Guide that provides information on ways to implement the AHLA action plan, including where to access employee training and partner resources, downloadable signage, strategies to connect with law enforcement, ways to report instances of trafficking and how hotels can support survivors.

In addition, AHLA in partnership with the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), will host a series of regional events throughout the year leading up to Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, to raise public awareness and facilitate collaboration with policymakers, law enforcement and hoteliers on best practices for policies, procedures and training  to enhance our human trafficking prevention efforts.


To read the full story by Vicky Karantzavelou on Travel Daily News: Click Here

Inside Look At How A Hotel Giant Is Preventing Sex Trafficking

June 17, 2019

The front line of stopping sex trafficking could be at the front desk. Soon, the state may require all hotels to train their staff to recognize the signs of a trafficking victim. But the world’s largest hotel chain is not waiting.

Over the past two years, Marriott International has trained 600,000 employees on how to spot the signs of human trafficking. All new hires are taught these signs as well. And there are posters to remind employees and raise awareness.

For example, behind the postcard-picture view from the J.W. Marriott Resort on Marco Island is an undercurrent of vigilance to prevent human trafficking.

Tu Rinsche, the global director of social impact for Marriott International, said every department in the hotel has different types of signs to look for.

“It’s definitely not just one sign that leads to trafficking,” Rinsche said.

Sharon Lockwood, general manager of the J.W. Marriott on Marco Island, said there are several signs that can catch her attention. Some guests may seem disoriented or malnourished, wearing the same clothes day after day. Or the trafficking victim could have multiple bruises in different stages of healing, avoids eye contact or cannot speak freely.

To read the full story by Teri Evans and Michael Mora on Wink News: Click Here

Transparency Throughout Agricultural Supply Chain in Regard to Human Trafficking Targeted

April 8, 2019

Retail sellers of agricultural products, regardless of where the product originated, who do business in Washington and have a worldwide gross receipt of more than $200 million, would be required to disclose violations of employment-related laws, incidents of slavery, peonage or working to payback debt, and human trafficking, under proposed legislation.

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D- Seattle, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5693, which passed from the Labor and Commerce Committee to the Senate Rules Committee on Feb. 21.

“It’s my job, I believe, as a consumer to make sure that I’m asking the hard questions around and supporting industry to be able to help us eradicate slavery and to make sure that people are having their human rights protected and respected,” Saldaña said. “This is really a step in that direction.”

Indira Trejo, the global impact coordinator for United Farm Workers, testified in front of the labor and commerce committee in support of the bill.

“I have learned that globally farm workers face many of the same issues, around the world,” Trejo said. “Farm workers risk being seen as disposable and invisible, stripped of their human dignity and worth.”

Washingtonians want to know when a worker involved in the agricultural process is being treated unfairly, Trejo said.
Carolyn Logue of the Washington Food Industry Association testified in opposition to the bill.

“We think what this will do is create a paperwork nightmare with significant liabilities for a lot of our businesses without dealing really effectively and efficiently with the very real problem of human trafficking and the other problems listed here,” Logue said.

Agricultural product is defined in the bill as cocoa, dairy, coffee, sugar and fruit products. The bill also defines what agricultural products do not mean, which is wheat, potato, onions, asparagus or other vegetable products.

Tom Davis with the Washington Farm Bureau noted that 95 percent of the farms in the state are family farms and that the “accusations” made in this bill towards them are “outrageous.”

“It presupposes that slavery, peonage and human trafficking are taking place on our family farms,” Davis said.

To read the full story by Emma Epperly on Nisqually Valley News: Click Here