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 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.
The abuse happened over 43 days until she escaped when her trafficker fell asleep, exhausted from beating her, according to the lawsuit. The Richmond woman is now married and working as a restaurant general manager.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, which also owns the hotel brand Super 8 among others, is a prominent hospitality chain with more than 9,000 hotels and resorts worldwide.
Unfortunately, Wyndham also profits from exploitive on-demand pornography and is being sued by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center for facilitating underage sex trafficking. Learn more and take action here.