Human trafficking is a crime that affects an estimated 24.9 million victims globally according to the U.S. Department of State. Human traffickers exploit victims to perform labor and engage in commercial sexual activity. Trafficking crimes have occurred in and through various businesses including hospitality, agriculture, construction, landscaping, restaurants, factories, massage parlors, salons, drug smuggling, religious institutions, and domestic work.

What is Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking where a person is forced to perform sexual acts by threats, coercion, or intimidation. If a child under the age of 18 is made to engage in for-profit sexual activity, regardless of the use of force or threatened coercion, the perpetrator is guilty of violating federal law. Any offender who partakes in sex trafficking by recruiting, sheltering, transporting, advertising, or soliciting victims to provide commercial sexual services is guilty of a federal crime. Perpetrators of sexual trafficking crimes often transport victims through commercial airports and other forms of public transportation to hotels, motels, salons and sporting events to engage in coerced sexual activity.

Legislation Provides Criminal and Civil Liability to Perpetrators

Businesses and institutions that engage in sex trafficking are now subject to state and federal civil claims brought by victims of trafficking schemes. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (“Act”), which has been amended several times since its inception, provides that human trafficking is a crime under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. The Act assigns criminal liability to perpetrators who receive sexual services from those forced into trafficking. It also authorizes victims to file civil claims against businesses and institutions that “knowingly benefit from their participation in what they knew or should have known” was sex trafficking activities.

The Rise in Sexual Trafficking Lawsuits Against Various Businesses and Industries

In the past three years, cases filed under the Act have sharply increased. These lawsuits allege that certain corporations, including hotels, motels, massage parlors, and truck stops have permitted sex traffickers to operate on their premises and failed to deter their activities. Commercial facilities may be liable for crimes involving sex trafficking if they fail to protect their patrons with surveillance equipment, security personnel, effective training for employees, or a system for reporting incidents of sex trafficking. The standard for liability articulated in the Act allows victims to recover when they can demonstrate that these institutions “should have known” that trafficking was occurring on their premises. In one lawsuit filed against sex traffickers, the victims claim that the business “benefitted” from sex trafficking and did not take “reasonable steps” to protect them. In another lawsuit, victims allege that a company facilitated the creation of sex trafficking rings.

Human Trafficking Lawsuits Against Hotels

Lawsuits targeting major hotel chains have proliferated in recent years, spurred by the expanded rights afforded under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). Over the past two years, a wave of litigation has swept across the nation, with trafficking survivors taking legal action against prominent hotel brands like Hilton, Marriott, and Wyndham. These lawsuits allege that these hotels were either aware of or should have been aware of the presence of sex trafficking and exploitation on their premises, and that they profited from these illicit activities. Several of these legal battles have culminated in substantial financial settlements.

When hotels are implicated in human trafficking, lawsuits may ensue, initiated either by the victims themselves or by governmental bodies. Typically, these legal actions assert that the hotel failed to implement adequate measures to prevent trafficking or neglected to report suspected instances to the authorities. Moreover, hotels may be held responsible for the damages inflicted upon trafficking victims, encompassing physical and psychological harm, lost income, and other associated losses.

To combat human trafficking effectively, hotels are expected to establish robust anti-trafficking protocols, encompassing employee training to identify and report signs of trafficking, the implementation of monitoring systems to detect suspicious activities, and collaboration with law enforcement agencies during trafficking investigations. Moreover, hotels should have been cognizant of resources such as the End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) guidelines and the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, as well as advisories from the Department of Homeland Security, which outline indicators of human trafficking, including signs of physical neglect, constant surveillance, and unusual requests for housekeeping services without room entry. Failure to adhere to these standards may render hotels liable for their complicity in facilitating trafficking.

In many instances, the negligence exhibited by hotels appears deliberate, with knowledge of sex trafficking coupled with a deliberate disregard for addressing it. Numerous customer reviews of these establishments contain complaints from guests regarding overt prostitution and human trafficking activities transpiring within the premises, underscoring the willful blindness exhibited by these hotels.

LK has the experience, knowledge, and resources to resolve claims against sexual abusers. We strive to obtain the best possible result while maintaining your privacy. If you have been the victim of sex trafficking, please contact us for a free confidential case evaluation by calling or submit an email inquiry.


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