An investment banker on a business trip to Finland has sued the Starwood Hotels chain, saying a front desk clerk gave her room key to a drunken man who then assaulted her in bed. Alison Fournier, a New York investment banker who now lives in Florida, was assaulted in her hotel room in Helsinki a year ago, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. Ms. Fournier says she was in bed in her room at the Hotel Kamp on her first work trip abroad on January 15, 2011, when she awoke to “someone climbing into her bed groping at her.”

Fearing imminent rape, Ms. Fournier, then age 30, fled to the front desk clad in a bathrobe and screamed for help, only to be told by front desk staff “that the man was her husband.” The T-shirt-wearing attacker, clearly intoxicated and claiming at 4 a.m. to be the Plaintiffs’ husband and that he had locked himself out of the room, was given a key to the room without any attempt to verify his claim. Ms. Fournier’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, said the assailant was an American staying at the hotel who had made overtures to the woman earlier and been rebuffed.

Starwood said in a statement its policy is to ensure proper identification and verification before issuing a room key. That should be a policy and practice for all hotels and one that must be strictly adhered to. The suit seeks unspecified damages for gross negligence, economic loss, physical and emotional distress and pain and suffering. Ms. Fournier went public with her lawsuit hoping to “warn other women who may be travelling alone of the danger that they may face.” Any person has the right to feel safe in a hotel room. In that regard, hotels have a duty to act responsibly to protect their guests. If the allegations in this lawsuit can be proved, this hotel failed to perform its duty in a grossly negligent manner.

Ms. Fournier was unable to return to work as a banker, saying she felt unsafe even in the most ordinary circumstances. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Ms. Fournier quit her high-six-figure-paying job as a vice president at an unnamed investment banking firm and left New York City to be nearer her family in Florida. “Business travel is often a critical part of a successful career, and women should not have to fear travelling or wonder if they will be targets of violence when they are staying alone in a hotel,” Ms. Fournier said in a statement. The Hotel Kamp operates under Starwood’s international Luxury Collection chain.

Gloria Allred, a founding partner at Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, located in Los Angeles, Calif., represents Ms. Fournier in this case. This is a most important case that will be watched very closely by the hotel industry and by working women who must travel in their jobs.

Source: Reuters

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