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On Wednesday, two California state lawmakers introduced a bill that would require hotels to provide housekeepers with a “panic button” to prevent violent assaults and sexual harassment.
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, co-introduced the hotel maid’s so-called “panic button” bill with Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward. If passed, it would make California the first country to have a statewide law requiring hotels to provide employees working alone in rooms with a panic button.
Additionally, the California bill would impose a three-year ban on any guest accused of sexual violence or harassment against an employee and keep a list of those charges for five years.
“Hotel employees often work alone, cleaning room after room, which leaves them vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances and, worse, victims of assault,” Quirk said. “I am proud to be working on this bill with Assemblyman Muratsuchi to not only raise awareness of the issue, but to do more to create a safer work environment for hotel employees.”
The city of Seattle previously passed a ballot measure that requires employers to provide hotel housekeepers with panic buttons, and Chicago passed a similar measure last year. The city of Long Beach, Calif., also considered a panic button ordinance, but rejected it late last year.
The California bill follows high-profile accusations of sexual assault and harassment brought against public figures including Oscar-winning film producer Harvey Weinstein. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said it was considering possible criminal charges against Weinstein, who has been accused of harassing or sexually assaulting multiple women over the years. Weinstein, who has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, is also being investigated by authorities in New York.
“As we haven’t seen the bill in print yet, we wouldn’t have a position yet,” said Lynn Mohrfeld, spokeswoman for the California Hotel and Lodging Association, the state’s lobbying organization. Of the industry. “That said, the safety of hotel guests and employees is a top priority. While no industry is immune to the fight against sexual harassment, as recent headlines have shown, weeks, our industry has employee reporting and prevention procedures and protocols in place and these are continually reviewed and updated.”
Mohrfeld added, “As an industry, we will always continue to focus on ensuring that hotels are safe places for everyone who works there and visits them.”
“Hotel employees deserve to feel safe doing their jobs,” Muratsuchi said in a statement. “We have heard a lot about the danger to hotel maids, who often work in situations that put them at risk of sexual assault or harassment. This would be an important step in protecting these employees from harm. “
Unite Here Local 1, a union representing hospitality workers in the Chicago area, released a report in Illinois last year that found 58 percent of hotel employees surveyed said they had been sexually harassed by a guest. Additionally, nearly half of all hotel housekeepers surveyed said that guests had at some point exposed or answered their doors naked. Nearly 500 women working in hotels and casinos were interviewed.