June 17, 2024

Sexual Affronts Are a Known Hotel Hazard

But housekeepers and hotel security experts say that housekeepers have long had to deal with various sexual affronts from male guests, including explicit comments, groping, guests who expose themselves and even attempted rape.

“These problems happen with some regularity,” said Anthony Roman, chief executive of Roman Associates, a Long Island company that advises hotels on security matters. “They’re not rare, but they’re not common either.”

Hotels are reluctant to discuss such incidents, but security experts say the accusations against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the I.M.F. chief, will prompt some hotel managers to review their security practices to better protect their housekeeping staff.

Zemina Cuturic, a refugee from Bosnia who works at the Tremont Chicago Hotel, said she remained frightened whenever she had to clean Room 410 because of what happened there a year ago. She was vacuuming, she said, and the guest, who had left the room minutes earlier, suddenly reappeared and “reached to try to kiss me behind my ear.”

“I dropped my vacuum, and then he grabbed my body at the waist, and he was holding me close,” Ms. Cuturic recalled. She persuaded the guest to let her go, and she fled. “It was very scary,” she said. Ms. Cuturic reported the incident to hotel management, but decided against going to the police. “I was kind of scared that he’d come back the next day if I did,” she said.

A Tremont official said the hotel, part of the Starwood chain, has a full-time security guard whose only job is to watch over the housekeeping staff. In the incident that Ms. Cuturic described, the official said that management confronted the man and insisted that he leave the hotel.

Housekeepers, nearly all of whom are women, talk of guests who offer them $100 or $200 for sex, apparently thinking that the maids, often low-paid immigrants, are desperate to earn more money. Some women complain of episodes in which they were bending over to, say, clean a bathtub, and a guest sneaked up and stuck his hand up their skirt.

Tom Whitlatch, president of Risk Services, a security consulting firm, said many hotel companies were taking a new look at safety after the accusations against Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who has resigned from the I.M.F. to focus on fighting the charges against him.

“I can assure you that the big hotel chains are aware of this incident and are saying, ‘We need to make sure our housekeepers are trained about this and we’re doing enough to prevent things like this from happening,’ ” he said.

Mr. Whitlatch said that there was little that hotels could do to prevent some of the incidents, but that training and good security procedures could reduce the risks to housekeepers.

Kathryn Carrington, a retired housekeeper who worked 30 years at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, recalled several occasions when she went into a room to clean, only to have a male guest emerge from the shower in his bathrobe, which then suddenly opened.

In one case, she said, a guest propositioned her, saying, “I see a pretty dark girl. Can you do something for me?” Ms. Carrington acknowledged that she used to carry a can opener with her in case she ever needed to defend herself from a guest.

The Grand Hyatt’s management was very supportive, she said. “They’d tell you, ‘If any situation occurred, get to the nearest phone and call the supervisor and leave the room. Someone else will help you do the room,’ ” she said.

The Hyatt Corporation declined an interview request, but said in a statement, “The safety and security of guests and associates is one of our top concerns.” It noted that its hotels employed many security measures and safety protocols. “Any time an associate raises a concern, we take it very seriously, promptly investigate the situation and follow as appropriate,” the company said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c2ee0f9ea08629f18335edbc43ff9d77

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