Can a Hotel or Gym Be Liable if Human Trafficking Occurs on Their Premises?

Can a Hotel or Gym Be Liable if Human Trafficking Occurs on Their Premises?

Why Are Gyms and Hotels Common Places for Human Trafficking to Occur?

The human trafficking trade results in untold harm to thousands of individuals across Florida annually. Vulnerable people from marginalized groups, such as undocumented foreign nationals and LGBTQ+ youth, are at high risk of becoming victims of trafficking. However, victims can come from any background. What they have in common is that someone is exploiting them against their will for labor or sex acts through threats, coercion, or other means.

While traffickers are the ones who generally face criminal and civil penalties for their despicable acts, the truth is that they cannot operate alone. They require customers and locations for the trafficking to occur. Too often, businesses turn a blind eye to what is happening on their premises, allowing this modern-day form of slavery to continue. Hotels and gyms are some of the preferred locations for traffickers to do business. The high foot traffic at these businesses allows customers to blend into the regular clientele and also provides opportunities for the traffickers to coerce or recruit new victims.

The common use of these public spaces by traffickers prompts important questions about whether or not these businesses can be held liable for the acts that occur on their premises. If you have been a victim of sex or labor trafficking, a Miami sexual assault lawyer can explain your rights for recovering compensation from the responsible parties.

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Can a Business Such as a Gym or Hotel Be Liable for Acts of Trafficking on Their Property?

Woman working front desk of Miami hotelThe Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and its subsequent reauthorizations outlined and expanded the legal rights and protections for victims of human trafficking. A critical aspect of this Act is that it specifically allows victims to file litigation against any business, entity, or person that knowingly or intentionally benefited from or facilitated acts of human trafficking. For example, if a human trafficker rented rooms at a hotel where acts of sex trafficking occurred, the hotel’s owner could be held responsible because they profited from the rental of that room.


Labor trafficking can also occur in these businesses, as traffickers may force unwilling laborers to stay in hotel rooms during their off hours. Traffickers can use the privacy and anonymity that a hotel provides to isolate and control the movements of their victims. Labor traffickers may also subcontract workers to perform jobs such as cleaning or repairs at hotels, gyms, and other businesses. It is a business’s responsibility to thoroughly vet their contractors and pay attention to the individuals who are spending time on their premises to ensure that they are not harboring victims of human trafficking.

What if the Business Owners or Staff Claim They Were Unaware of the Trafficking?

Confused woman behind deskClaiming ignorance of trafficking crimes occurring on the property is not a valid defense for hotels, gyms, and other businesses. There are commonly many red flags that should have alerted the business to the trafficker’s activities. However, because the employees were not trained to recognize the signs of trafficking or did not have a way to safely or effectively address the issues, the crimes often go unreported.

The TVPA even has a specific clause that addresses the arguments of hotels and other businesses that claim they were unaware of sex trafficking, specifically of minors, that was occurring on their premises. This clause states that if employees had a “reasonable opportunity to observe a minor victim” of sex trafficking, they could be liable. A corporation can also be held vicariously liable for the acts of their employees, so even if the management or owner was genuinely unaware of the trafficking, they could still be held responsible for their employee’s actions. Ultimately, the onus is on management to provide adequate training, oversight, and reporting systems so employees can effectively identify and prevent human trafficking from occurring on their property.

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Who Can File a Claim Against a Business That Profited From Human Trafficking?

Trafficking can cause severe physical, emotional, and financial harm to victims and their loved ones. Criminal charges against the traffickers can provide some closure and a sense of justice to those impacted by the trafficking. Still, it can be challenging for victims to recover fair compensation from the traffickers for damages because those individuals often will not have any available assets after a conviction for their crimes.

In these cases, pursuing legal action against the third parties who benefited from the trafficking, such as gyms, hotels, transportation services, and others, often provides the best chance for victims to recover damages. People who may be eligible to file a civil claim against a business that profited from human trafficking include the following:

  • Direct victims of sex or labor trafficking.
  • Parents or legal guardians of minors who were trafficked.
  • Close family members of individuals who perished as a result of human trafficking.

How Can an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Assist You With Your Claim?

Hotels and gyms have frequently shown an unwillingness or an inability to prevent human trafficking on their properties or protect victims. Now, those harmed by human trafficking have ways to hold these businesses liable for their failure to take action. Having a skilled attorney on your side who can advocate for your rights and ensure that your claim is handled properly is crucial. If you or a loved one have been a victim of labor or sex trafficking that occurred at a hotel, gym, or other business in the Miami area, contact Mausner Graham Injury Law, PLLC to schedule a free, confidential consultation to learn more about your legal options.

Last updated Tuesday, November 21st, 2023

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