The #MeToo movement exposed numerous companies for their failure to respond to sexual harassment and poor treatment of employees in general. Hotels and resorts have had this problem for several decades, but now the pressure is on for employers to step up their safety protocols for harassment prevention on their sites.
One state resort that stood out amidst the extensive media coverage was Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, as a worker who filed a sexual harassment and assault lawsuit against the resort became one of several women that were named among the Silence Breakers for Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year. Since her story came to light, several more workers have begun to file complaints and lawsuits against Terranea, demonstrating how severe the resort’s mishandling of sexual harassment reports could be.
One of the first workers to file a lawsuit against the resort was back in summer 2017. The employee was a former dishwasher and chef assistant who faced retaliation when she refused her supervisor’s sexual advances. The supervisor changed her schedule and took away more hours she could have done to financially support herself. The company fired her when she took her complaints to management. After receiving acknowledgement as one of the “Silence Breakers” by Time Magazine, she received a settlement of $250,000 from the company to clear the resort of liability.
However, the dishwasher was far from the only worker who has problems with Terranea. One of her co-workers experienced the same problems with the same supervisor and received further harassing text messages after she quit. A uniform attendant filed a lawsuit just last month against the resort’s loss prevention manager for sending inappropriate text messages and reportedly assaulting her when she reported the problem. Three housekeepers also reported guests sexually harassing them and claim the resort’s management did nothing to combat it.
In The Guardian’s article combining all of these stories into one, they also talked to a barista who still currently works at Terranea and claims that hotel management is still not taking reports of sexual harassment seriously enough despite the negative press and the explosion of the #MeToo movement.
What comes next?
Some of the nation’s top hotel chains such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton plan to soon give their workers panic buttons. This is already active with hotels in major cities such as Chicago and New York, but Rancho Palos Verdes could soon join their ranks. They managed to collect enough petitions to vote on panic buttons for all hospitality workers, but the City Council chose to push this ballot to 2019. In contrast, Long Beach will vote on the issue next month.
California’s newer laws to combat sexual harassment will not be enough to change the inappropriate behavior of all employers and co-workers. Hotel management and human resources need to step up their safety protocols to protect their employees rather than retaliate against them. If you face some form of retaliation for reporting unwarranted behavior of a co-worker or supervisor, an employment law attorney can help you seek justice against your inattentive company.