British Columbia

2 out of 3 of workers surveyed at Vancouver hotel say they faced sexual harassment: union

The hotel is the subject of a human rights complaint from workers over allegations of sexual harassment by guests.

Hotel Georgia has denied allegations, says it has zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment

Local 40 workers went on strike this summer, claiming they had been sexually harassed on the job at the Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, B.C. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

More than two-thirds of female workers surveyed at Vancouver's Rosewood Hotel Georgia say they have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment from guests, according to a new survey from the union representing hotel workers.

Thirty of the 45 surveyed workers — 67 per cent — said they have faced an unwelcome sexual joke, comment or question from a guest.

Female workers at the downtown hotel also reported the highest rate of uncomfortable guest behaviour toward them (73 per cent) and unwanted touching from guests (56 per cent).

The survey, released Wednesday by Unite Here, Local 40, which represents workers in B.C.'s hospitality industry, heard from 190 workers at five downtown Vancouver hotels, including the Westin Bayshore, Hyatt, Pinnacle and Four Seasons.

Ninety-eight per cent of the respondents were women and most had roles that involved direct interaction with guests, including servers and housekeepers.

The survey consisted of eight questions covering guest behaviour, employee training and management response to sexual harassment by guests.

Some of the behaviour cited included guests answering the door naked or exposing themselves, making unwelcome sexual comments, and showing sexual texts or pictures. 

The survey questioned 190 workers at five downtown Vancouver hotels. (Unite Here, Local 40)

When asked if a hotel guest had made them feel uncomfortable, workers at the Westin Bayshore and the Hyatt reported similarly high rates (55 per cent and 52 per cent respectively).

Those numbers were lower at the Pinnacle (38 per cent) and Four Seasons (31 per cent).

Participation in the survey varied among the hotels: 51 workers were surveyed at the Westin Bayshore, versus 13 workers at the Four Seasons.

The data was analyzed with help from a labour research centre at Simon Fraser University.

Sharan Pawa, the union's spokesperson, said the survey highlights the hazards facing female workers in the hotel industry.

"This is a booming tourism industry we have in Vancouver and in the province," Pawa said. "It needs to be a safe workplace for women."

The results came the same day that Hotel Georgia workers issued a 72-hour strike notice, and more than a month after a group of 10 workers filed a human rights complaint against the hotel, alleging sexual harassment from guests.

Zailda Chan (left) stands with members of Local 40 along with three women who have reported sexual harassment and assault while working in a hotel in Vancouver on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

None of the five hotels in the survey responded Wednesday to requests for comment. CBC News has not verified any individual accounts of alleged harassment.

Hotel Georgia, which responded to the strike notice Wednesday with a lockout notice, has denied the allegations and asked the union for an apology over its damaging comments.

The hotel maintains that it has zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. 

Lack of training

The survey found 70 per cent of workers surveyed said they had not received any training on dealing with sexual harassment by management. And 37 per cent said they had never reported inappropriate guest behaviour to management.

Pawa said many women are afraid of management retaliating if they raise concerns. 

She said the union is pushing for greater protections for female staff, including a panic button for frontline workers, bans on guests who have sexually harassed an employee, and whistle blower protection for employees who come forward with complaints.

"We have not seen the solutions to these issues addressed over the bargaining table with them," Pawa said.

Hotel workers at the Hyatt, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle have also voted in favour of a strike.

With files from Laura Sciarpelletti