Staff Safety When Traveling Abroad

A jury recently awarded a plaintiff $44 million dollars in damages in her negligence lawsuit against an international hotel chain.

The woman was a guest at the hotel when she was sexually assaulted.

According to the allegations proven in the lawsuit, the woman was intoxicated, unable to walk, and lying on the ground outside the hotel.

The alleged perpetrator was standing next to her and told hotel staff, "She's with me." Staff obtained a wheelchair and took her to the perpetrator's room, where the woman was sexually assaulted for several hours.

The plaintiff alleges that hotel staff failed to make any attempt to determine if she had her own room at the hotel, although her identification was in her purse, or to examine the perpetrator's stated relationship with her.

According to the victim's attorneys, the staff's failure to "follow even the most basic procedure" of checking identification of registered guests constituted egregious negligence. "Hilton Hotels Hit with Record $44M Negligence Verdict for Facilitating a Sexual Assault of a Hotel Guest" (Nov. 23, 2021).

Commentary and Checklist

Family employers should distribute a written travel policy to all staff that outlines boundaries, including those regarding personal safety. Importantly, if they feel threatened or unsafe in a place or situation, staff should know to let you know, so you can help.

Also, make sure staff knows how to contact law enforcement or emergency help in the country where the travel is occurring and tell them to do so if they ever face imminent danger.

Here are some additional steps that family employers should take to protect staff from wrongdoing when traveling with the family:

  • Have a written safety policy stating that staff must follow laws and safety guidelines, such as posted warnings or instructions for using equipment, at all times.
  • Prohibit staff from using drugs, drinking while driving or in other unsafe situations, getting intoxicated, engaging in risky activities, and speeding.
  • Make sure staff do not publicize, digitally or in person, that they work for you.
  • Have staff sign your policy. Make it clear that the policy applies anytime the staff member is working or with the family, including during "free time" while traveling with the family.
  • Train staff on your policy and discuss unsafe activities that are prohibited by your policy.
  • Train managerial staff on behaviors and immediately meet with staff to address any unsafe practices.
  • Know areas that are unsafe when traveling and alert staff.
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