How Can the Hospitality Industry Better Protect Housekeeping Staff?

By Richard G. Hudak

A fourth option under discussion is to train staff in self-defense tactics. But security directors note that not all housekeepers would be willing or able to engage in self-defense tactics. Also, any such program would require considerable up-front and ongoing training to achieve and maintain proficiency. And there would likely be an increased potential liability for the hotel if this policy resulted in injury to the housekeeper either in training or execution.

A fifth policy being considered is to change the uniform female housekeepers must wear, requiring that they be attired in slacks instead of dresses. But security directors note that a female housekeeper wearing slacks may be in as much jeopardy as one in a dress.

A sixth policy under consideration is to make it mandatory to report aggressive guests and inappropriate behavior. However, security directors note that what may be considered aggressive or inappropriate by one person may not be a problem for another; thus, staff should be empowered to report such behavior rather than being told that it is mandatory.

Hotels are also considering policies that clearly state that guests who exhibit inappropriate behavior will be evicted. But security directors note that eviction is a serious response that may result in a lawsuit. Thus, this policy would have to be carefully implemented to ensure that eviction would be initiated for only the most serious of situations.

Whether any of these options will be widely adopted is not yet clear. With or without additional measures, however, hospitality operations should at least implement the already proven closed-door policy. While it may not deter a determined attacker who mirrors the alleged circumstances in the Strauss-Kahn incident, a closed-door housekeeping policy is still the best way to protect hotel staff servicing guest rooms against most threats and to safeguard guest property.

Unfortunately, it is not implemented as consistently as it should be. To cite just one example, during a recent business trip, I was staying at a medium-sized hotel in a [mid-western] Midwestern city and observed a foreign housekeeper servicing a nearby room with the door blocked open. A laptop was left unprotected, work documents spread out on the desk, and jewelry on the dresser. The housekeeper was in the bathroom cleaning the tub with the water running. Not only was she unable to control access to the room, but she was also unable to protect herself from harm.

Richard G. Hudak is the managing partner at Resort Security Consulting, Inc., in Delray Beach, Florida. A former FBI Agent, Hudak has worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years. He is a member of ASIS International.



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