Survey of Downtown Hotel Housekeepers

Survey of Downtown Seattle Hotel Housekeepers Reveals Frequent Sexual Harassment and Pain

September 2016 - Downtown Seattle hotels can be an unsafe and hazardous workplace for housekeepers, the vast majority of whom are women. A recent survey of housekeepers reveals that they experience frequent sexual harassment from guests and an alarmingly high rate of severe pain and injury from work.

Hotels benefit from grueling physical work to keep their facilities clean and from the business of customers who don’t have to face the consequences of their actions. Meanwhile, housekeepers pay with pain in, and violation to, their bodies.

Harassment & Assault

In a survey conducted of downtown Seattle hotel housekeepers, 52 respondents (53% percent of the total number of respondents) reported a total of 262 incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Surveyed housekeepers reported incidents of harassment and assault that occur in spaces where they are likely to be alone with a guest.

Surveyed housekeepers also reported that incidents are widespread and not just isolated experiences. Almost half of respondents (47%) said that they have also heard from friends or coworkers about being touched or groped, blocked from leaving the room, exposed to sexual content, and harassed in other ways by guests.

Despite the obvious risk to housekeepers of working in isolation in guest rooms, hotel managers may not be providing a safe work environment where women feel empowered to report incidents of harassment or assault. According to the survey, most (51%) incidents described by respondents go unreported to their supervisors.

Housekeepers appear to be aware of the risks and the need for better safety measures. Nearly all respondents of the survey (95%) reported that they would feel safer if equipped with a panic button.

Severe Pain & Injury

Many people may not realize that housekeeping is strenuous work that can result in repetitive injury and chronic pain. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the injury rate for housekeeping is actually higher than both coal mining and building construction. Furthermore, the percentage of housekeepers that experience pain is more than three times the percentage of the general population that experience back pain.

Nearly all (97%) of surveyed downtown housekeepers reported that they suffer from work-related pain. Most of these injuries are severe enough to cause long term hindrance and disruption to the workers’ daily lives. Half of respondents reported a variety of short- and longer-term consequences of housekeeping work. These include taking medicine, residual pain, and interference in everyday routines.

Surveyed housekeepers reported that that they felt pain in many parts of their bodies due to their work, including their shoulders, backs, knees, and hands. In addition, most respondents said that their workload had increased in the past five years. A high percentage of housekeepers (91%) reported that they skip breaks more than once a week.