Hotel unions have made protecting workers from sexual assault an issue after a housekeeper at a New York hotel accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the head of the International Monetary Fund, of sexual assault. (Bloomberg/File)
US hotel companies are stepping up efforts to provide employees with electronic safety devices -- known as panic buttons -- as the #MeToo movement raises awareness of sexual assault in the workplace and hotel unions make worker safety a key point in contract negotiations.
Marriott International Inc. and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. are among the companies expanding their use of the electronic devices, which make it easier for housekeepers and other workers to summon help from security staff, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the trade group sponsoring the industrywide initiative.
Hotel unions have made protecting workers from sexual assault an issue after a housekeeper at a New York hotel accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the head of the International Monetary Fund, of sexual assault. Strauss-Kahn denied the allegations and reached a settlement with the housekeeper in 2012.
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Since then, hotel workers have won access to varying degrees of protection through a combination of labor contracts and city ordinances in New York, Chicago and a handful of other major hospitality markets. The hotel association has opposed some of those measures, including a Seattle law requiring hotels to keep track of guests who have been accused of abuse.
Rachel Gumpert, a spokeswoman for Unite Here, the hotel-workers union leading ongoing contract negotiations, called broader access to panic buttons “a step in the right direction” but said hotel companies should go further, including instituting temporary bans against known harassers.