(NEW YORK) — A New York business woman is suing Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, claiming staff at one of their hotels gave her room key to a drunken man who allegedly sexually assaulted her in her bed.
Alison Fournier announced the suit Monday at a news conference with women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred.
According to the suit, Fournier was in her locked room in Hotel Kämp, a hotel operated by Starwood Hotels in Helsinki, Finland, on the night of Jan. 15, 2011, when she was sexually assaulted.
The man, who was “visibly intoxicated,” had undressed, slipped into her bed, and proceeded to grope her naked body, the suit says.
Fournier, who is represented by Allred and the New York firm Cuti Hecker Wang LLP, is suing the company for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress for an amount to be determined at trial.
Fournier was traveling to Helinski for work and said that she specifically chose a Starwood hotel because of the company’s reputation.
But instead of security, Fournier said she found susceptibility.
According to a release that Allred sent out, a man approached Fournier the night of the incident, expressing a sexual interest in her. According to Allred, Fournier had made it very clear that she was not interested in him and retreated to her room to get away.
That same man, according to the suit, later went to the front desk, said that he was Fournier’s husband, and obtained a key from hotel staff to her room.
The staff did not ask him for any identification or proof that he was in fact Fournier’s husband, according to the lawsuit. He then proceeded to her room and tried to molest her. She awoke, grabbed a housecoat, and ran screaming from the room.
She said that, because of the incident, she left her career and moved from New York to be closer to her family.
The suit alleges that there is no indication that Starwood has taken any action to investigate the incident at Hotel Kämp or to disassociate itself from the Finnish hotel.
In a statement given to ABC News by Starwoods Hotels and Resorts, Worldwide, the company said it is investigating the incident.
“The safety and security of our guests is our first and foremost priority. It is company-wide policy to ensure proper identification is shown and verified before distributing a key to a registered guest’s room,” the statement said. “We are taking this allegation seriously and are working with the hotel in question to understand the facts and any breach of security that may have contributed to this very unfortunate event. “
Allred said the case is representative of a bigger problem than a personal assault, because women, particularly businesswoman, have a right to feel safe when traveling and staying at well known hotels.
“Business women have a right to safety and security and especially need that safety and security when traveling abroad,” Allred told ABC News. “They are particularly vulnerable when traveling alone. Starwood’s negligence, misconduct and reckless disregard for the safety of Ms. Fournier has led to devastating and life changing consequences for her….They need to be fully accountable and make sure that this never happens again.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN
Heather Long, CNN