Supporting Guest Service Position Employees Through Sexual Misconduct
By Magnolia Polley Partner, The Green Team Project | October 2010
Sexual misconduct happens across the board, in every profession, in every industry, at one time or another. Within corporate hotel entities, ethics and sexual harassment trainings are a mandatory part of yearly training schedules, especially for management. Most of the time, sexual misconduct refers to behavior that goes between co-workers or peers. Those who work in spas, quickly learn that they are a part of a therapeutic industry that is often confused with the "sex industry", on some level. Licensed Massage Practitioners are trained medically opposed to sexually, but because there is stigma that links the practice of massage to tantric massage, sexual release, or prostitution, a spa professional must be aware that someone may come to them with the intention of receiving something more than a general massage. Despite the "laws" that stand behind an employee that may experience misconduct, a strong presence of loyalty and integrity must be present and enforced from the top all the way down the proverbial ladder. It is the responsibility of the hotel and spa management to ensure that their practitioners know what to do and how to act under such circumstances.
When a facility brings on a wellness center or spa facility, they generally do so as an amenity or draw for their establishment. The target is relaxation, well-being, and general pleasure for the guests. The facility itself looks for expansion, more to offer, and revenue. Generally, these goals do not conflict with providing guests with an ultimate luxury hotel or resort experience. The training, encouragement, and permission to take personal initiative are paramount points when placing and educating the key employees that can help ward off sexual misconduct. In the spa environment these key employees are those who book appointments and make the initial contact with guests or clients.
The following information covers points for spa reception with the intention of these employees acting as the first line of defense in keeping an intentionally serene environment for their guests, their peers, and the establishment they work for:
- Be aware of clients who ask questions about their therapist's personal features, ei. hair color, weight, eye color, age, ethnicity, etc.
- If someone requests anything that sounds like "sex work", do not try to talk them into a massage. Let them know that there are places and people who do that work, but it is absolutely not available at this facility.
- Have a list of establishments or web-sites available as reference if necessary for those mistakenly contacting your establishment for services outside of the "spa" bounds.
- If a guest acts peculiar while checking in, let the therapist and at least one other co-worker know about your concern.
- Know who to call on property when an incident occurs, ei. general manager, property security, or other trained and aware individuals, so if a therapist needs immediate assistance, there is always someone who is trained and capable of talking to the guest and potentially escorting them off the grounds, or who can talk with police in the case it takes more than one person to gracefully work through the situation.
Beyond prevention of sexual misconduct from within, it important that the spa lead, manager, or director is available to perform some immediate counsel for the therapist who has had the encounter. Although most people are aware and agree that sexual misconduct happens, prostitution happens, and indeed sexual therapies are relevant, it does not mean that the practitioners do not feel violated when put in these situations. It is no one's job to tolerate abuse or to be subject to the actions of someone misinformed or displaying predatory behavior.
Gonzalo Figueroa Landeros is an instructor at the National Holistic Institute, where he received his certificate as a Massage Therapist and Health Educator in 2003. He has worked at a resort spa in the Napa Valley and at a day spa in San Francisco's Union Square. He currently works and lives in San Francisco.
I have interviewed Mr. Gonzalo Landeros to help bring understanding and light to the subject matter of sexual misconduct within hotel spa facilities. His experience as an instructor as well as that of working as a massage practitioner in San Francisco, a city where there are no massage licensing requirements, only permits and entertainer's permits given through the police department, is an extremely realistic view-point on the reality of sexual misconduct and how it can be dealt with responsibly. California's state wide massage laws are different from county to county and as California is known for having some of the best spa facilities in the world, it also is known for having leniency towards sex businesses.