Hotel Housekeepers Share Tales of Sexual Harassment

PHOTO: Hortensia Valera , a housekeeper in California, spoke to ABCNews.com about being sexually harassed.
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Elizabeth Moreno was making the bed in a downtown Chicago hotel room when the room's guest unexpectedly returned.

Hotel policy dictated she had to leave, but he insisted she stay.

"He started asking me, 'What are you doing later?'" Moreno said.

Then, she said, he told her, "We can have sex. I'll give you money -- whatever you want."

The 34-year-old, who has been a housekeeper for 19 years, said she aggressively told him no.

"I was talking to him real angry," she said.

She says he left the room soon afterward and Moreno told her manager right away.

"I was so scared," Moreno said. "[The manager said] 'You O.K., you O.K.?' I said, 'No, I'm not O.K. I'm nervous."

Her manager confronted the guest, and Moreno said the guest denied ever having solicited her.

In the days following, she said, "nobody cleaned his room."

It wasn't the first time Moreno had been subjected to inappropriate behavior at work, she said. One time a man approached her in the hallway, offering to pay for a massage. He asked several times and promised to pay her "good money."

"He said he wanted massage ... maybe he wanted something else," she said.

Similar incidents happened at the first hotel she worked at, 14 years ago, but there, she said, the management didn't do anything.

The management at her current hotel is responsive to workers' concerns, she said, but she worries because they only have security guards on the weekend.

Sometimes she also fears her hotel's daily 4 p.m. check-in, when the housekeeping staff goes from room to room. Moreno said guests occasionally answer the door naked -- without even so much as a towel -- something that her sister, who used to work as a housekeeper, has also experienced.

Housekeepers Share Their Stories

Moreno, and many other female hotel workers, are now speaking out, inspired by the bravery of two New York hotel maids.

After the New York housekeepers reported alleged abuse, police arrested two powerful men: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and former banking executive Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, who now heads El-Mex Salines Co., a solar salt producer in Egypt.

Omar is accused of sexually abusing a maid Sunday at The Pierre, a luxury 5-star hotel on New York's swanky 5th Avenue.

It's not yet clear if Omar has an attorney. According to The Associated Press he was transferred Tuesday morning to a booking facility near a Manhattan courthouse after being held Monday night at a police precinct.

Strauss-Kahn is under house arrest in a luxurious New York City apartment awaiting his fate in a sexual assault case. The 32-year-old hotel maid he is charged with attempting to rape at the upscale Sofitel hotel has gone into hiding.

He faces 25 years behind bars if convicted.

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