Whether you’re sending dozens of employees to a conference or a few employees to visit an out-of-town client or attend a seminar, you can save money and/or allow more people to go by having some of them share hotel rooms. But should you?
It’s not illegal to ask employees if they would be willing to share a room, and there’s nothing wrong with allowing colleagues who are good friends outside of work to room together. However, it should never be required.
Why can rooming together cause legal issues?
The level of closeness and lack of privacy inherent in sharing a room can lead to sexual harassment charges – even if the employees are of the same gender and are (at least to your knowledge) heterosexual. One person might feel comfortable walking around without clothes, while the other might consider that inappropriate and even threatening behavior.
It’s also crucial to consider the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employee with a medical condition covered under the act needs to be offered an accessible room to accommodate whatever their disability might be (hearing, mobility or sight, for example) even if they don’t feel comfortable asking for one. Further, an employee with a medical condition that doesn’t require special accommodations may not feel comfortable dealing with their medications or medical devices in front of a co-worker.
There are also non-legal issues
Aside from the potential legal issues, requiring or even expecting employees to share hotel rooms when they would rather not can be seen as a lack of respect for their privacy. For many people, a few days away on a business trip is the closest thing they’ll get to a vacation – or away from the kids — all year. They might appreciate having evenings to themselves.
Some employers believe that sharing rooms is part of team building. Instead of building camaraderie, however, it can lead to conflicts that follow people back into the workplace. An employee who’s kept awake for several nights by their co-worker’s snoring can carry that resentment into their next project collaboration. There’s plenty of opportunity for team building at meals and other get-togethers.
Typically, the best way to handle these out-of-town trips is to start with the assumption that everyone will have their own room and make exceptions only if and when people ask to room together. This can help you avoid unnecessary and costly problems.