VA: fight against human trafficking in hotels approves Assembly

A bill requiring training for Virginia hotel employees to recognize and report human trafficking passed the House of Representatives unanimously on Friday by 36 votes in favor and only 4 in against in the Senate, by the State Assembly in Richmond.

The announcement was made Monday by Democratic delegate Shelly Simonds, who sponsored the bill, known by the acronym HB258.

Basically the project directs the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to develop an online course to train hotel owners and their employees to recognize and report cases of suspected human trafficking.

It also requires each hotel owner to require their employees to complete such a human trafficking training course developed by the Department. Thereafter, they will need to update their training at least once every two years.

The Department is also allowed to approve training programs for the recognition and prevention of human trafficking that many hotel chains currently have in place.

“I am delighted that we were able to come together to pass this important bill. Human trafficking is a horrendous problem and we need the hospitality industry’s help to fight it. This bill will allow people to say something if they see something,” said delegate Simonds at a press conference.

Liz Parker, president of the Newport News Area Hospitality Association in Virginia, said, “Human trafficking has always been a huge concern for us in the hospitality industry, which has been working proactively and diligently to put an end to that criminal activity.”

He added that all major hotel brands require human trafficking training within the first 30 days of employment. “HB258 will help codify these standard industry practices to combat and prevent human trafficking,” Parker said.

For his part, Howard Gwynn, Virginia Attorney for Newport News, expressed his “incredible appreciation” to Delegate Simonds “for her tireless efforts to get this important legislation passed.”

“However,” he added, “whatever happens, we must continue to find ways to do more to help victims of human trafficking and punish criminals.”