A millionaire, a hotel maid and an arrest after the inauguration for sex abuse – By Michael E. Miller May 21 at 8:55 PM


John Joseph Boswell, the chief executive of a barrel manufacturing company, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual abuse for groping a maid at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. (Special Collections Research Center)

He was a millionaire, in Washington to toast President Trump’s inauguration.

She was a maid, tasked with cleaning rooms that cost more in a few days than her monthly rent.

On Jan. 19, as the nation’s capital swelled with tourists and protesters, the millionaire and the maid met on the 10th floor of the Mayflower Hotel downtown, in Room 1065.

As she made his bed, he approached from behind and began rubbing her buttocks, according to a police report.

“This is very nice stuff,” he said, according to the report. “I like that!”

Such incidents are all too common in an industry where about half of employees say they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by a guest, union surveys have shown. Many go unreported because the housekeepers, often immigrants or women of color, fear losing their jobs.

In 2011, the plight of hotel housekeepers became international news when Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the head of the International Monetary Fund, was accused of sexually assaulting a maid at a luxury hotel in New York. Criminal charges were dropped, but the incident spurred New York hotels to provide maids with panic buttons.

Six years later, the devices only now are reaching many other parts of the country, including the District, a city with 32,000 hotel rooms and about 3,000 maids.

More than 30 hotels in the Washington area have introduced panic buttons in the past year under an agreement with Unite Here Local 25, said John Boardman, the union’s executive secretary-treasurer. The Mayflower introduced the devices on April 1, he said.

The agreement was reached in 2012, but it has taken five years to put in place reliable technology, Boardman said. When pressed, the panic buttons send a maid’s location to hotel security. Hotels pay for the devices and monitoring systems, which generally cost between $40,000 and $50,000.

In November, voters in Seattle approved a measure providing hotel workers with panic buttons and other protections. And in Chicago, the city council is considering a measure that would require panic buttons.

“These women deal with a constant fear when they work by themselves,” said Alderman Michelle Harris, the ordinance’s sponsor. “Will they be next?”

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