Following the charges of sexual assault and attempted rape of a Manhattan hotel housekeeper by former IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, two democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require hotel and motel owners in New York State to provide sexual harassment training to all employees.
The bill would also require New York hotel and motel owners to develop an employee bill of rights that would protect workers from retaliation if they report abuse. As a complement to the bill of rights, the required sexual harassment training must provide a clear system for reporting sexual harassment.
This bill is signaling a trend for hospitality employers across the country – hotel workers are at a heightened risk for harassment and discrimination, which makes high-quality sexual harassment training essential.
“The behavior of hotel guests will always be unpredictable,” said Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who introduced the bill in the State Assembly. “The training required by this bill will provide a much-needed layer of protection against aggressive and inappropriate customer behavior.”
The emphasis on training is a breath of fresh air. While policies are important (and this bill requires hotel owners to shore up their policies), nobody reads policies. Bringing policies and workplace rules to life with engaging, interactive sexual harassment training will give employees the awareness and practical skills needed to create and sustain a productive and safe environment free of sexual harassment. As importantly, effective training truly empowers workers to report misconduct early on so that the organization can quickly step in, investigate, and take corrective action where appropriate. Well implemented sexual harassment training actually has the power to influence behavior and impact workplace culture.
Hospitality employers everywhere should be taking a close look at their sexual harassment training programs. Are they up to date and do they cover contemporary issues? Have they been reviewed in recent years? Far too many sexual harassment training programs are non-compliant and can actually create legal risk.
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