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Are panic buttons for hotel workers a needed protection or impractical overreach?

Today, two California Assembly members are introducing a bill that would require hotels to provide panic buttons for employees who work alone in guest rooms.

Calls for more stringent employee protections against sexual harassment have reverberated through various workplaces in the wake of #MeToo and are now hitting the hospitality industry, where labor activists argue that workers, most often immigrant women, experience harassment from guests.

The bill would also require hotels to keep a list of guests who have harassed employees and to bar guests with verified incidents of harassment from the property for three years. It would also mandate paid days off to employees to contact police or lawyers after they’ve been assaulted.

Other cities in the U.S., such as Long Beach, have looked at similar measures. The hotel industry has been against the idea and has raised questions about whether such buttons are practical, effective or needed.

If you’re in the hotel industry, what do you think of the logistics and need for such a “button” and guest ban? Is this overreach or a much needed protection for vulnerable employees? If you’ve serviced hotel rooms, have you experienced harassment from guests?

UPDATE: Following the airing of the segment, California Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO Lynn Mohrfeld sent us the following statement:

The safety of our employees and guests is our top priority. For decades, the hotel and lodging industry continuously reviews and updates procedures and protocols for employees about prevention and reporting of sexual harassment. Specifically, CH&LA has provided multi-language sexual harassment and workplace violence prevention trainings, active shooter trainings, coordination of a security directors’ alliance that includes a property warning system and an annual forum dedicated to safety and security. 

We will continue our work, day in and day out, with a focus on ensuring that hotels are secure places for all those who work and visit them. While we will await the formal introduction of the proposed legislation, it is our hope that the state legislature will give this matter serious thought and work together with our industry to ensure commonsense policies that empower employees, maintain the proper role of law enforcement and provide a safe working environment. 

Guests:

Lorena Lopez-Masumi. organizing director for Unite Here Local 11 in Long Beach, a labor union that represents workers in various industries, including hospitality

Carl Winston, director of the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at San Diego State University