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Hotel worker's suit sparks change in practice

A Southern California dishwasher's lawsuit, which got her named a "Person of the Year" by Time magazine in 2017, has also led to some important changes in the hotel industry, which is a staple of the economy in the Los Angeles area and the rest of Southern California.

In the lawsuit, the woman, who worked at an upscale hotel through a temporary agency, complained that her supervisor sexually harassed her. Ultimately, she settled her suit with the temporary agency for $250,000, but the hotel itself avoided paying a claim. It should be noted in this respect that the temporary agency may have been the woman's legal employer.

Her story, however, has inspired unions and the hospitality industry alike to do more to protect their employees from sexual harassment. This form of harassment has been viewed as a particularly pervasive problem in the hospitality industry. One reason is that workers frequently do their tasks in large buildings and spaces with plenty of isolated areas where there are few people around to witness harassment.

Specifically, several hotel chains are equipping their employees with panic buttons. In some cases, these buttons can put an employee in touch with another individual should the employee need help, whether due to sexual harassment or otherwise. Other hotels are handing out more conventional devices, that is, those which simply emit a loud noise.

While union officials have described these moves as a positive step, they feel that more work needs to be done to prevent sexual harassment.

Just the same, this story illustrates that filing lawsuits about harassment or other discrimination is not simply just about getting compensation, although this is certainly important. Speaking up can also be the catalyst that brings about important and positive changes in the workplace.

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