Minnesota hotel workers now required to get training in sex trafficking prevention

A state mandate now aims to end sex trafficking in Minnesota through the state's hotel industry. 

The law requires all hotel and motel employees to be trained in recognizing the crime. The training must be completed by Nov. 28. After that date, all new employees must be trained within 90 days of hire. 

“This is a crime that goes on on a daily basis,” said Jason Subbert, General Manager of TPI Hospitality hotels in Fairmont. “But when you don't know what to look for, you don't necessarily even know that it's going on.”

Subbert is also on the board of the Minnesota Lodging Association, which worked with the Minnesota Department of Health to build and implement the program. The training is part of a mandate passed during the 2018 legislative session. 

“Our hotels are institutions to serve people. They're not just organizations to make money. And so in an institution to serve people, you really have to be focused on the people,” Subbert said. 

The training will take about 40 minutes. It includes a toolkit for managers, signage, training guides and a video.  

All the pieces work together to tell employees who to call and the signs to look for, like a guest checking in without luggage or guests with a large age difference. 

“There might be signs in the room - for example, that they have requested no hotel keeping and housekeeping for a while, but they still request extra sheets and extra towels, but don't really want anybody coming into the room,” said Minnesota Department of Health Violence Prevention Programs Unit Supervisor Beatriz Menanteau. 

“I think the whole industry is going to get a little bit of a wakeup call just on 'wow, we weren't aware of how big of a problem this was,’” Subbert said. “When you force it in that tighter timeline, it has to get the attention that it needs.” 

“Having somebody in the hotel, looking and responding and reaching out makes the connection for police as well,” Menanteau said. 

The training will be reviewed and updated every year. The requirements are tied to licensing for hotels and motels.