Can Hotels Face Civil Liability for Human & Child Trafficking in Washington?


“Reckless Disregard” and Human Trafficking Under Washington Law:

In Washington, a hotel that is found to be criminally liable for their direct/indirect participation in human trafficking or if their acts caused harm to the victim can be ordered to pay restitution to the victims. Under Washington human trafficking law, a person is guilty of human trafficking when the person “recruits, harbors, transports, transfers, provides, obtains, buys, purchases, or receives by any means another person knowing, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that force, fraud, or coercion…will be used to cause the person to engage in forced labor, involuntary servitude, a sexually explicit act, or a commercial sex act, or that the person has not attained the age of eighteen years and is caused to engage in a sexually explicit act or a commercial sex act.”

Washington Law considers a facilitator of human trafficking to be anyone who “benefits financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture that has engaged in acts” in violation of section (a)(1) above. This means that hotels can be found criminally liable if they are in reckless disregard of the fact that human trafficking is occurring on their premises, including if there’s a reckless disregard for the age of a minor involved in a commercial sex act.

If found criminally liable, the court can order the offender to pay the victim restitution.  Restitution ordered by a court pursuant to a criminal conviction shall be based on damages for injury to the victim, loss of property, actual expenses incurred for treatment of injury, lost wages resulting from injury, and counseling related to the offense. Restitution is also ordered in all cases where the victim is entitled to victim benefits under the crime victims’ compensation act.

The Takeaways:

  • If you live in Washington State and work in the hospitality industry, you can be held civilly liable as a facilitator of sex trafficking if you are found to have benefited financially and recklessly disregarded the fact that trafficking was taking place.
  • Restitution can include payments to take care of the victim for the rest of their life.

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