Few people think about the housekeepers and maids in New York City hotels. That is reflected by the fact that 31 percent do not leave tips for housekeepers and maids. These workers are often invisible.
Yet, according to an article in USA Today, not only do these workers receive uncertain tips and low wages, on average around $21,800 per year, but they are also exposed to significant on-the-job hazards. For example, those eco-friendly housekeeping options that allow guests to reuse sheets and towels without washing for one or more days and forgo room cleaning, may be good for the environment, but they are hard on housekeepers. A room that is dirtier because it hasn’t been cleaned for several is going to be harder to clean and requires the worker to work faster. This makes him or her more subject to injury — hotel workers don’t get any extra time for a room that has not been cleaned for a while.
Housekeepers are more likely to be injured on the job than other hotel workers. In fact, the injury rate among housekeepers and maids is 50 percent higher than among other hotel workers and 25 percent higher than among other service sector workers, according to . Lifting heavy mattresses and hand-scrubbing bathroom floors is an invitation to all types of musculo-skeletal injuries. When cleaning bathrooms, housekeepers can be exposed to blood-borne pathogens, even if they wear gloves.
Housekeepers are also vulnerable to sexual assault. The high-profile 2011 case involving a French diplomat and a hotel maid highlighted the dangers faced by the often-unseen workers. Another hazard is bedbugs. Every time a housekeeper makes a bed, there is the possibility of being bitten by these insistent and hard-to-find creatures.
When they suffer back and knee injuries, the most common problems among these workers, hotel housekeepers and maids often return to work without the option of light duty, make it likely that they will aggravate the problem that caused them to take time off in the first place. According to a hotel workers union, 66 percent of housekeepers and maids take pain medication just to get through the day.
These workers may be invisible, but their work is hard and potentially disabling.