Posted on 19 May 2011
The arrest of International Monetary Fund's Dominique Strauss-Kahn for allegedly trying to rape a housekeeper at the New York City luxury hotel Sofitel is putting the spotlight on hotel security, particularly for housekeepers.
"It has sparked quite a lot of questions on the topic of security in hotels," says Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for hotel workers' union, UNITE HERE.
The Toronto Star spoke with a former housekeeper who said that housekeepers tend to be vulnerable since they may be immigrant women who may fear for their jobs.
Some housekeepers are reluctant to report cases such as inappropriate touching or groping because hotel management conveys an attitude of "the guest is always right," Andria Babbington, who worked 17 years as a housekeeper, told the Star. Babbington is now a UNITE HERE union rep.
For many women who face harassment from hotel guests, the question is, "Do I complain? I could lose my job," she said.
She's heard her share of stories during her housekeeping days.
"You would hear 'Come in.' And then you walk in and the guest has no clothes on, in his birthday suit," she said. "He would say, 'Can you touch me here? Or can you tuck me in?' I would say, 'My job is done' and I'd walk away," said Babbington, who now works as a health and safety representative for Local 75 of UNITE HERE.
The unidentified housekeeper at the heart of the Strauss-Kahn case is an African immigrant and widow with a 15-year-old daughter, her lawyer, Jeffrey Shapiro, told MSNBC. She is not a U.S. citizen but is in the USA on a visa.
She had told authorities that she thought the room was empty when she knocked on the door and walked into now-infamous room 2806 at the luxury Sofitel hotel.
She said a man emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway, pulled her into a bedroom and dragged her into a bathroom before allegedly leaving the hotel to catch an Air France flight back to France.
Not much is known about the housekeeper, but CNN reports that she is from Guinea.
She picked Strauss-Kahn out of a police lineup, and is ready to testify before a grand jury or take other necessary steps, Shapiro told CNN.