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Anti-Harassment Rules at Gatherings Foster a Safe Environment

Anti-Harassment Rules at Gatherings Foster a Safe Environment

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By Dr. Sheri Hernandez
Program Director, School of Business, American Public University

The old image of conventioneers in funny hats and buttons running wild across hotel lobbies and drinking to excess at bars and in hotel rooms is largely a thing of the past, thank goodness.

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Today, professional conferences, trade shows and association meetings are seen as excellent opportunities for professionals to gather, network, attend educational sessions, and discuss major policy issues and industry trends. They are not, however, an opportunity for attendees to act in ways they would never would at home.

Most Organizations Have Anti-Harassment Policies They Expect Their Employees to Follow

Employees who attend these gatherings represent a variety of organizations, fields of engagement and even different nationalities. It is safe to say that most of these organizations have policies in place that they expect their employees to follow when they represent their employer at outside events.

However, sometimes at these gatherings employees will interact with senior officials from competitors or other companies that could possibly create an awkward environment in which there is a perceived imbalance of power. So organizers and hosts should also have anti-harassment policies prominently displayed and enforced during their events.

Anti-Harassment Policies Reinforce the Industry’s Commitment to Protecting Guests and Employees

Establishing anti-harassment policies and making them known prior to and during conferences reinforces the host industry’s overall commitment to protecting guests and employees alike. Everyone who participates in large gatherings should be able to attend without worrying about unwelcome advances from other attendees or using their own positions of power to attempt to gain favors from servers and other hotel staff.

In social situations, especially where alcohol freely flows, some attendees do not always adhere to proper social responsibility and polite interaction. Their actions, emboldened by drink, may not always accord with the standards of the host or the hotel.

Having a written policy of expected conduct makes it clear that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. But these policies must be enforced to be effective. It behooves event organizers to create and enforce an anti-harassment policy for the duration of all conferences.

The hospitality industry, for one, is committed to providing a safe working environment for all of its employees that includes uncompromising anti-harassment policies. However, no industry is exempt from some incidents that involve harassment, including sexual harassment.

A Five-Star Policy to Combat Workplace Violence and Harassment

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) has created a five-star policy to combat workplace violence and harassment that is supported by other industry organizations.

The 5-Star Promise represents the hotel industry’s commitment to advance safety and security for hotel employees and guests. This comprehensive and unparalleled commitment includes these five important components:

  • Build on our industry’s longstanding commitment to hospitality and a People Culture.
  • Ensure mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies are in place in multiple languages.
  • Provide ongoing training and education for employees on identifying and reporting sexual harassment.
  • Provide U.S. hotel employees with employee safety devices to help them feel safe on the job.
  • Broaden vital partnerships with wide-ranging national organizations that target sexual violence and assault and trafficking and promote workplace safety, including the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), and Polaris.

In an unprecedented show of unity within a fiercely competitive industry, the CEOs of Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham joined AHLA president and CEO and Chairman of the AHLA Board for this historic announcement that will cover thousands of employees across the country and provide a safe, educational environment for all those who attend conventions and other gatherings.

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About the Author

Dr. Sheri Hernandez is the program director for American Public University’s Department of Hospitality Management in the School of Business. She has extensive knowledge of restaurant operations, purchasing and training. She combines her skills as a restaurant manager with her career experience in financial commodity risk management, consulting, and purchasing to enable her to educate her students with a customer-focused, yet financially sound approach to hospitality management.

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