VANCOUVER – In response to a new wave of reports of sexual harassment experienced by some staff at Vancouver’s Hotel Georgia, certain female employees have filed a human rights complaint against the hotel for gender discrimination, an overly-sexualized work environment and failure to respond appropriately to incidents of harassment or assault in the workplace. UNITE HERE is the union representing workers at the legendary hotel.
The Hotel Georgia is an internationally recognized luxury hotel ranked the best hotel in Canada by U.S. News & World Report and has earned distinctions from Forbes and Conde Nast. Yet, women tell a different story of what it is like to work at Canada’s top-rated hotel, which is owned by Pacific Reach Properties, a Canadian real-estate company with interests in hotels and restaurants.
“Sexual harassment is a problem for many women working in this industry, and at this hotel in particular. Female servers have been touched, kissed, and have experienced sexual comments and advances from male guests and past managers. I feel that this type of behavior should not be tolerated,” said Sierra Garrison, a server at the Hotel Georgia.
Pacific Reach Properties has yet to comprehensively address the #MeToo experiences of many female staff who continue to come forward with stories of sexual harassment on the job. According to the human rights complaint, the Hotel Georgia is contributing to a culture of abuse, putting profit and guest satisfaction over the safety of their employees:
- Certain female employees have explicitly been told that they must “put up with” the sexual assault and harassment from the guests.
- Management not only condones this behavior by guests, but actively creates an atmosphere that encourages sexualization of female staff for guests.
- The hotel offers what it describes as “an unmatched combination of legacy and luxury” all the while allowing for certain female staff to be treated in derogatory and discriminatory manner.
“On one occasion, I had a guest reach his hand up my skirt and grab my inner thigh and hold me, not letting go. When I told management about this, they told me that they didn’t want to make a scene so best to just keep serving him. I ultimately left the hotel because I couldn’t deal with the environment there anymore,” said Jesse Perry-Huson, a server at the Hotel Georgia.
UNITE HERE is calling for measures to ensure the safety of women working in Canada’s hospitality industry, such as; panic buttons, a hotel ban of guests that commit sexual harassment, whistleblower protection for those who come forward to report incidents and worker safety representatives to investigate harassment, discrimination and safety issues in the hotel. The Union has successfully achieved these measures in other cities across North America. Most recently, the City of Vancouver unanimously passed a motion to explore how the city can better protect hospitality and other service workers from sexual harassment in response, in part, to women coming forward at the Hotel Georgia.
Contact: Sharan Pawa, 604-725-0053, [email protected]
UNITE HERE Local 40 represents workers throughout B.C. who work in hotels, food service and airports. Local 40 is part of the UNITE HERE International Union, representing over 300,000 workers in the hotel, food service, airport and gaming industries across Canada and the U.S.