From Hollywood to hotels, sexual harassment and assault are major problems in many industries.
And it’s women in the latter field that California lawmakers hope to empower with a new bill that would require hotels to provide panic buttons to employees so that they can call for help if a guest acts inappropriately, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The bill, which will be introduced for consideration on Wednesday, also proposes that hotels ban perpetrators found guilty of sexual harassment from their premises for three years, according to CNBC.
Women who work as housekeepers in hotels are often vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances and harassment, according to Bloomberg
"Hotel workers often work alone, cleaning room after room — thus making them vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances and worse, victims of assault," Democratic Assemblyman Bill Quirk, who co-wrote the bill with Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, told CNBC.
According to a study conducted by Unite Here, a labor union for hospitality workers, 58% of hotel workers in Chicago have been sexually harassed by a guest. But it’s not just the solitary nature of their work that leaves hotel housekeepers open to harassment.
“Oftentimes, there's a power imbalance between the women who clean them, who are often women of color, immigrants, and guests who have those rooms who pay hundreds of dollars a night,” Karen Kent, president of the Unite Here chapter in Chicago, told NPR. “If something happens with the guests, they often can't be heard or possibly can't even get away.”
If adopted, California’s hotels would follow in the footsteps of unionized hotels in New York City, which began providing hotel workers with devices that enable them to wirelessly signal for help in 2012 after housekeeper accused French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, the New York Times reported. Seattle and Chicago also adopted similar measures last year as the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace became a topic of national discussion.
While many are welcoming the security measure, members of the hotel industry have criticized the move to provide panic buttons as ineffective.
According to the Huffington Post, the American Hotel and Lodging Association called the panic button effort a “fig leaf” solution that gives the appearance of addressing the issue of sexual abuse in the industry, while drawing away from other proposed measures like higher minimum wages and stricter workload regulations.
But the movement to provide panic buttons seems to be catching on. Lawmakers in Miami Beach are also considering adopting the initiative, according to the Miami Herald.
“It is the intent of this measure to protect hotel employees from violent assault, including sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and to enable those employees to speak out when they experience harassment on the job,” Muratsuchi has said.
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