Jack Walker Published

Senate Bill Would Require Hotels To Provide Human Trafficking Training

An woman sitting on a bed in a room with light coming in from the window. The woman has her back to the camera. The image features an abuse concept with a blue tint to the color of the image.
West Virginia hotels would soon have to implement human trafficking awareness training if a new bill passes the West Virginia Senate.
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A bill under discussion in the West Virginia Senate would require hotel owners to provide their staff training on human trafficking awareness.

Senate Bill 472 would require hotel employees who interface with guests, like reception and housekeeping staff, complete an annual training on identifying and reporting human trafficking.

The bill would also require employers to display a human trafficking awareness sign within their venues, with the phone number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center featured prominently on it.

If the bill passes as written, hotels would be required to comply with the new standards by 2025 or face a fine of $2,000 per day of noncompliance.

Some lawmakers expressed concern over the severity of the fine at a meeting of the Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday, including Sen. Jason Barrett, R-Berkeley.

“I mean, that’s a pretty hefty fine at $2,000,” he said.

Also during the meeting, Richie Heath, executive director of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, told committee members that many corporate hotel chains already offer human trafficking awareness resources through the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

“Human trafficking has been a big issue, especially in the last several years,” he said. “There’s been a lot of emphasis on this in the industry.”

If the bill advances further in the Senate, Heath said that West Virginia hotel staff would benefit from flexibility in training curricula so that they would not have to undo training protocols already in place.

Sen. Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha, said that providing these resources comes at a cost, and also pointed to a lack of data clarifying how effective these resources would actually be for hotel staff in the state.

“Although there aren’t substantial costs to this, there are more costs, right? More burdens of government to spend, whether it’s signage, whether it’s an area that needs to be designated, whether it’s a training program,” Stuart said.

“It just eats into that profitability,” he continued. “Perhaps not for Marriott or Hilton, but for Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s bed-and-breakfast.”

Despite the debate, committee members unanimously voted to refer the bill to the Senate with the recommendation that it pass, but only after an additional review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.