New Jersey will be the first state in the U.S. to require hotels to provide panic buttons for workers.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Tuesday, June 11, 2019, that will require hotels with 100 guest rooms or more to equip hotel workers with wearable panic buttons, or employee safety devices (ESD), which can be pressed to get help in an emergency.
The treatment of hotel workers, and knowing that they are safer because of ESDs, could be a factor when meeting planners are looking for event sites.
In 2018, a room cleaner at Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino was sexually assaulted when a man pushed her into a hotel room.
“The isolating nature of hotel employees servicing private rooms puts them in a uniquely vulnerable position,” said State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, one of the bill’s chief sponsors. “A panic device to communicate to authorities outside of the room in the case of harassment and assault will go a long way to ensuring their safety, security and [well-being].”
Murphy signed the bill surrounded by one housekeeper from each of the nine Atlantic City casinos. The new law will take effect in January 2020.
"I am proud to sign panic button legislation to give hotel workers security and the ability to immediately call for help should they need it," Murphy said.
Other Cities, States and Hotel Chains Considering Panic Buttons
Although New Jersey is the first state to pass a law requiring panic buttons, other cities as well as major hotel chains already have this, or similar measures, in place.
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In 2018, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the new Hotel Workers Sexual Harassment Ordinance, which required all hotels in Chicago to provide panic buttons for hotel housekeeping staff assigned to work alone. A Hotel Employee Safety Act Bill currently under consideration in Illinois would extend the requirement to equip hotel staff that work alone in guest rooms or restrooms with panic buttons to cover the entire state.
In July 2018, the Miami Beach City Commission passed an ordinance that requires hotels to provide EDSs to room attendants, housekeeping attendants, minibar attendants and room service servers by August 2019.
There is a proposal to delay the implementation until August 2020.
In May 2019, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5258, requiring every hotel as well as motel, retail, security guard entity or property services contract employer to adopt a sexual harassment policy and provide mandatory training to employees. It also requires issuing panic buttons to hotel housekeepers and room service attendants.
[Related Content: ‘Panic Button’ Bill Gets Hospitality Association Support]
Several major hotels chains, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham, Red Roof Inn and Best Western, as well as Caesars Entertainment, have introduced ESDs to their hotel staff.