HR Hero Line

What the Las Vegas Strip massacre means to employers

by Deanna Forbush

The current Google Doodle says it all. The Doodles generally express recognition of a special day, such as the celebration of a holiday, an anniversary, or the life of a famous artist, pioneer, or scientist. Since last Sunday’s horrific Las Vegas massacre, however, the Google Doodle is a simple mournful black ribbon. Google’s message to the world is that our collective hearts are with the victims of the Las Vegas Strip massacre, their families, and the community of Las Vegas.

The much anticipated last night of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, the country music bash billed as a #ThreeDayNeonSleepover, turned into the scene of a shooting spree starting at 10:08 p.m. On Monday morning, all of Las Vegas woke up to texts, e-mails, and tweets from friends, loved ones, and colleagues asking if we were “all right.” When I received my extensive set of alarming messages, I turned on the news to learn that Steven Paddock, a 64-year-old resident of Mesquite, Nevada, somehow managed to get 23 semiautomatic rifles, scopes, and modifiers and a cache of ammunition into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and up to his suite of rooms on the 32nd floor, perfectly poised to look down on the grounds where the music festival was to be held.

After spending three days at Mandalay Bay gambling and essentially taking up residency in his suite of hotel rooms, Paddock broke out two windows and unleashed a hailstorm of bullets, killing 59 people (to date) and wounding 527 more in what is now known as the “deadliest mass shooting in United States history.” In light of this horrific violence, many are asking what they should be doing to prevent such an event.

While it’s noted that one of Mandalay Bay’s commendable and brave security officers undoubtedly put an end to a massacre that easily could have gone on for another hour, given the amount of weaponry in Paddock’s room, one would be remiss not to wonder whether more could have been done to prevent the widespread assault. After all, a bellman certainly helped Paddock in with his luggage (13 suitcases for a three-day stay). If not, a front-desk agent or elevator security guard must have noticed his unusual gear. And how is it possible that the housekeeper and/or room service employee responsible for his room over the three days in question failed to notice the hoard of weapons and/or ammunition? If not the employees in the hotel, surely the “eye in the sky” noticed Paddock lugging enough weaponry to arm a small junta to his room. And even if it didn’t, surely it saw him installing cameras in the hotel’s hallway. Even if he had a “do not disturb” sign on his hotel door for three days straight, wouldn’t that be a signal that something was wrong and someone should investigate? The issues raised go on and on.

Maybe reports about Paddock were filed within the hotel and casino, but right now, it’s too soon to tell. However, if they weren’t, the problem may lie within the fine balance many in the hospitality industry struggle with—respecting an individual guest’s privacy while providing for the collective protection and security of all.

Las Vegas is the place the whole country comes to unwind, maybe even become someone else for a day or two. To that end, most hospitality organizations have enacted policies stating a strong commitment to respecting their guests’ privacy, vowing to protect all personal information collected from guests according to a strict standard of confidentiality.

Employees in the hospitality sector are trained to guard a guest’s privacy. They are cautioned not to speak to reporters, not to disclose personal information to the public, not to confirm or deny any guest’s presence on property. In fact, in Las Vegas, employees have a long-standing tradition of using initials to refer to guests, such as “Mr. P,” in an effort to protect their anonymity.

It is possible that such policies and concomitant employee training created an environment wherein no employee felt he could report the facts surrounding this horrific event—facts that in hindsight appear to be so suspicious. It may be that these privacy policies need to be revisited in today’s environment, where so many appear to be devoid of conflict resolution skills and differences are seen as threats and other people as enemies.

For example, rather than guaranteeing guests’ privacy, language such as “privacy will be protected to the extent possible while taking safety and the well-being of others into consideration.” Additionally, employers in the hospitality industry should consider adding a statement to the guest registration “card” (most of which are now electronic) such as:

The [Hotel] reserves the right to ask any guest to leave the Hotel, terminate any booking, and remove any guests’ belongings and other things brought onto the property if, in the Hotel’s sole discretion, there is reason to believe that any guests’ behavior or conduct is disruptive, disorderly, or unsafe and/or otherwise creates a risk of harm to or disrupts the safety, comfort, or enjoyment of others, including Hotel guests and/or staff, and/or if any guest is believed to be violating any law and/or Hotel rule or policy. Additionally, in the event that housekeeping services have been refused or declined, and/or you have requested not to be disturbed for consecutive days, the Hotel reserves the right to enter, or have your room entered, under reasonable circumstances, including, but not limited to, the performance of maintenance, to confirm well-being, and/or when the Hotel has cause to believe that an emergency situation exists and/or that any guest or person is in danger.

Additionally, employees should be trained to understand that there are limitations to any pledge of privacy and that suspicious behavior and circumstances must be reported to hotel security or some other designated department.

Deanna L ForbushIn the meantime, in our own way, we all must pray for comfort for the hurting, while working to fix this broken world we all share. Sadly, I fear that this time, what happened in Vegas is not going to stay here.

Deanna L. Forbush is an attorney with Clark Hill, practicing in the firm’s Las Vegas, Nevada, office. She may be contacted at