TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Linda Greenstein that would require hotels to provide portable panic devices to housekeeping staff or other room servicing employees to protect them from inappropriate conduct including assault, sexual assault, harassment and sexual harassment by guests advanced from the Senate Labor Committee yesterday.
“Employees have the right to a safe working environment and there lies a constant responsibility to seek the highest standards possible,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Hotel workers routinely service rooms alone in the presence of guests where they are vulnerable to assault and harassment. Equipping employees with a panic device that would signal for immediate intervention in potentially life-threatening situations is an invaluable asset that raises the safety standards currently found in many hotels.”
The bill, S-2986, would require hotels to keep records of the accusations made against a guest for alleged violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment or any other inappropriate conduct and criminal activities and to report them to law enforcement. Hotels would be required to keep the names of guests who are involved in one of these incidents on a list for five-years from the date of the incident while making the presence and location of the guest known to the employee that was involved. The employee involved would be reassigned to work in an area away from that guest’s room. Other employees would be given the option of either servicing the guest’s room with a partner or opting out of servicing the room entirely.
“More than half of the hotel employees that participated in a 2016 survey stated that they had been sexually harassed by a guest in the past, and this survey only accounted for the city of Chicago’s hotel industry,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “These are alarming statistics that bring light to the unsafe working environment that hotel employees are forced to work in. This legislation would provide employees with a renewed sense of safety with the assistance of a device that could save them from danger.”
The bill would place a three-year ban on a guest if they are convicted of a crime in connection with the incident in question.
All hotel employees would be required to receive proper education on the panic devices and their rights, and it would be required that all hotel guest be made aware of panic devices via a sign in a prominent location, or within the hotel’s terms and condition of occupancy.
Employers would be subjected to a $5,000 civil penalty for its first violation and a $10,000 penalty for each subsequent violation, collected by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The bill advanced from committee with a vote of 5-0, and will now head to the full Senate for further consideration.