Thousands of hotels across the US will be giving their staff panic buttons to use if they feel they could be in danger of assault or harassment, the AP reported. Last week, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, along with its primary members, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham, announced that they would provide employee safety devices to all staff that has direct contact with guests by 2020.
Also, employees at newer, Wi-Fi-enabled hotels will be given panic buttons that alert security to their exact location using GPS tracking. Hotels will also institute mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies and offer ongoing training and education for employees to identify and report sexual harassment in the workplace.
Katherine Lugar, president, and CEO of AHLA said that protecting hotels employees as well as the millions of guests who stay in hotel rooms across the US every day is of critical importance to the industry.
The announcement follows concerns expressed by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Several US cities, such as New York City, Chicago, and Seattle, already require hotels to provide panic buttons to staff, the AP reported.
“We are working toward deployment of the devices at both managed and franchised hotels in the United States and Canada through 2020 and we continue to explore safety technology solutions globally,” said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, who believes that everyone should feel safe and secure as they fulfill their work responsibilities.
The hotels are also working to develop partnerships with national organizations, like the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) and End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), that fight against sexual assault and trafficking and advocate for safety in the workplace.
“This is an important step that we hope will lead to more industries taking a stand and committing to employee and guest safety,” said Tina Tchen, co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, in a statement.
Other hotels supporting the initiative include Caesar’s, AccorHotels, Four Seasons, Best Western, and Red Roof Inn.
Unite Here, a labor union that represents the rights of American hospitality employees, has been instrumental in persuading hotels to implement panic buttons to protect employees
"The panic buttons, or safety buttons, are useful in that they are a real-time lifeline for women who work alone," said Rachel Gumpert, national press secretary for Unite Here. She added that they can be used in cases of sexual assault or harassment, as well as in other dangerous situations like if an employee notices that a guest has illegal or dangerous materials in their room.