Va. could require training for hotel workers to spot human trafficking

Virginia lawmakers have passed a bill that would require hotels operating in the commonwealth to provide employees with training on how to better recognize and report human trafficking.

House Bill 258, authored by Del. Shelly Simonds, a Democrat from Newport News, would authorize the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services to create a mandatory online training course that would be free to hotel employees. The bill has been sent to Governor Glenn Youngkin for his signature by 11:59 p.m. on April 11.

Studies — including a 2018 one by the Polaris Project — have shown a high percentage of survivors of human trafficking have, in at least one time in their experience, been in a hotel.

The industry has been working, nationally, to control the problem — some larger brands already have instituted training programs.

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association was involved in helping expedite the process, in which larger hotel chains’ established plans can be submitted to the Department of Criminal Justice Services for approval.

Under the bill, anyone employed by a hotel on July 1, 2022, would have until Dec. 31 to complete the training.

A spokeswoman for Youngkin did not immediately respond to an email about whether the governor intended to sign the bill.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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