Whistleblower for Hotel Bed Bug Cover Ups
In most instances when a hotel guest sustains dozens or even hundreds of bed bug bites, a prompt inspection of the room by a licensed pest control company will confirm the presence of bed bugs. However, in a small yet significant number of cases, the hotel will advise the guest that the room was inspected and no bed bugs were found. Internal documents uncovered in bed bug cases handled by Whitney, LLP shows that hotel management has blatantly lied to guests to cover up the presence of bed bugs in their hotel room.
In situations where a guest has no history of exposure to bed bugs prior to coming to the hotel and then checks out with a massive number of distinctive bed bug bites, it defies credibility to say the room was negative for bed bugs. In those situations, it is possible, yet difficult, to prove a pre-existing infestation.
Such a case takes on a whole new level of liability for the hotel if an honest, conscience-stricken hotel employee steps forward with the truth. The employee who steps forward — the whistleblower — may have observed a pattern of guests ravaged by bed bugs followed by cover-ups. Worse yet, the employee may be directed to participate in systematic efforts to destroy or hide the evidence of bed bugs.
Steps to the Cover-up of a Hotel Bed Bug Infestation
Bed bug cover-ups are attempted or achieved by the steps outlined below.
First, the housekeeper is told by management not to document or discuss any direct observation of the infestation.
Next, rather than leave the “scene of the crime” undisturbed for the pest control technician to inspect, the housekeeper or maintenance worker is told to perform some or all of the following tasks before the third-party inspection:
- Remove all blood-stained pillow cases and sheets;
- Remove the mattress pad and dust ruffles that are soiled with bed bug feces;
- Remove, discard and replace the mattress and box spring;
- Remove, discard and replace the infested baby crib;
- Remove, discard and replace the headboard;
- Thoroughly vacuum up all bed bugs, bed bug casings and bed bug carcasses;
- Apply over-the-counter insecticides or perform do-it-yourself heat treatment.
Once these steps are performed, it becomes very unlikely that the pest control technician, or local government inspector, will detect evidence of bed bugs.
An alternative approach to keeping bed bug victims in the dark, is to simply falsely inform the customer that the inspection was negative, notwithstanding having a service report confirming that the room is infested. In other cases, there may be an express agreement or tacit understanding between the hotel and pest control company technician not to document the technician’s observations of bed bugs.
Bed Bug Infestation Cover-up Motivation
What could possibly be the motivation behind a bed bug cover-up? Such conduct would seem to be contrary to the carefully cultivated brand image of hotels who profess to care about their customers’ safety and comfort, and who “take bed bugs seriously.” Unfortunately, local management’s short-sighted focus on maximizing profit and minimizing expense provides the motivation behind such wrongful conduct.
Consider the cost of handling the situation the right way. First, the room must be immediately placed out of service, and must remain quarantined until the infestation is successfully exterminated. This could amount to weeks of missed room revenue. This loss of rental income may be magnified by placing adjacent rooms out of service.
Second, reputable professional treatment can be expensive. With adjacent rooms included, the cost could be well over $1,000.
Third, the room charge must be refunded.
Fourth, hotels are motivated to avoid paying compensation to persons who have suffered numerous bed bug bite wounds. Likewise, the hotel Risk Management Department is adverse to paying legal fees to defend a lawsuit. Properly handled, certain bed bug cases have a six-figure settlement value, and possibly more in front of a jury at trial.
Fifth, an effective cover-up can avoid the negative publicity of a serious bed bug incident.
Downside to Cover-up
A cover-up of a bed bug infestation is deceptive and contrary to the stated Code of Conduct and goals of any reputable organization in the hospitality industry. A cover-up jeopardizes the safety and welfare of the hotel’s most prized asset: its loyal customers.
Requiring hotel employees to carry out such dishonest activities breeds cynicism among employees, harms morale and places housekeeping and maintenance staff personnel at risk for translocating bed bugs to their homes and cars. Hotel employees should not be asked to clean heavily infested rooms or move contaminated furniture until the room has been successfully treated and confirmed free of bed bugs.
Reluctance to Blow the Whistle
Employees who are either aware of a cover-up or those who are required to participate in destroying evidence are understandably reluctant to step forward and tell the truth. For example, housekeepers are afraid of being fired if they tell the guest what they know. These minimum wage, hardworking employees lack economic security. They may be very troubled by what they see and do, yet they do not want to risk jeopardizing their ability to support their family.
Other times, work conditions are so unfavorable that the hotel employee may decide to quit, and at that point may feel free to disclose the truth to the injured guest.
Let’s Put a Stop to Bed Bug Cover-ups
The exposure of a pattern and practice of bed bug cover-ups could have a major impact on the way the hotel owner, operator and franchisor does business. Direct proof of a pattern and practice of cover-ups could provide the basis for a jury to impose a punitive damages award. Unfortunately, given the all-too-common focus on short term profit, a healthy punitive damages award is one of the only effective measures to punish and deter such misconduct.
The Power of Social Media with Bed Bug Infestations
If any current or former hotel housekeeper or maintenance worker is aware of a bed bug cover-up, and is willing to come forward, the bed bug attorneys at Whitney, LLP are willing to assist in attempting to put a stop to it. Upon being contacted by the whistleblower, confidentiality would be assured, unless or until permission is given to reveal the whistleblower’s identity. Steps can be taken to post targeted inquiries on social media to locate the bed bug victims to correct any misinformation that had previously been conveyed by the hotel. Contact Us Now at 410 583 8010 or use our Quick Contact Form.