Hotel Panic Button Laws

 A Breakdown of Hotel Panic Button Legislations and Ordinances

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9 out of 10 hospitality workers suffered some type of abuse during their dealings with guests.  In September 2018, The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and major hotel brands announced the 5-Star Promise.  Participating members pledged to provide hotel employees with safety devices, to provide training and to update their policies in order to increase the safety of their workers.  Almost 60 member companies representing 20,000 hotel properties have committed to prioritizing employee safety and equipping employees with safety devices.  And so far over 5,000 hotels have implemented safety devices in the United States, with the goal of nationwide implementation by 2020.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many hotels have had to extend their deadlines.  In addition to the 5-Star Promise, several states and cities have passed legislations and ordinances requiring that hotels provide employee safety devices/panic buttons to their employees.  Each jurisdiction has its own requirements and deadlines by which hotels have to abide by.

What Are Panic Buttons?

Panic buttons are employee safety devices that are also known as staff alert, that can be carried by employees and dispatches emergency alerts that provide exact locations, allowing responders to reach employees within minutes.  Hotel panic buttons can be worn around the neck, they can be attached to belts or anywhere on the employee’s clothing that is easily accessible in the event of an emergency.

Hotel Panic Button Legislations and Ordinances

hotel panic button laws

New laws and ordinances have been put in place that require hotels to provide employees with safety devices /panic buttons to ensure their safety while at work.  Different states have different requirements and timeframes for hotels to become compliant.

Washington State Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
Hotels and motels with 60 or more rooms must become compliant by January 1st, 2020, with all other businesses meeting the requirement by January 1st, 2021.
All hotels, motels, retail, or property services contractor, who employs an employee must provide a panic button to each employee.  Hotels are also required to adopt a sexual harassment policy and to provide mandatory training to managers, supervisors and employees.  A list of resources must be provided to employees and must include contact information of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Washington state Human Rights Commission, and local advocacy groups focused on preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Seattle, Washington Panic Button Law
On November 30th, 2016, the Health and Safety (HEHS) Initiative became effective and requires Seattle hotels with 60 or more guest rooms to equip each staff member assigned to work alone in guestrooms with panic buttons.  The new Washington law is statewide and is applicable to all hospitality owners regardless of size.

New Jersey Panic Button Law

Date of compliance
The deadline for hotels to become compliant was January 1, 2020.
The Panic Button Law requires hotels, inns, boarding houses, motels or other similar establishments with at least 100 guestrooms to provide panic buttons to hotel employees assigned to work in a guestroom without any other employee present.  Panic buttons must be provided at no cost to the employees.  Hotel employees who are covered under the law and who under reasonable circumstances believe they are in the presence of an ongoing crime, an emergency or immediate threat of assault or harassment may stop working, may leave the immediate area and wait for help to arrive.  The hotel may not take any unfavorable action against employees who exercise their right to use panic buttons.

Additional Requirements
Hotels that violate any provision of the act, which includes failure to provide panic buttons or failure to follow any requirement may result in a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for the first violation.  Hotels can expect up to $10,000 in civil penalties for each subsequent violation.

Illinois Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
The deadline for hotels to become compliant was July 1st, 2020 but was extended to March 1, 2021.
Hotels and casinos are responsible for equipping employees who are assigned to work in guestrooms, restrooms, or casino floors, where no other employee is present in the room or area, with a safety device or a notification device.  The ordinance also prohibits retaliation against employees for the use of panic buttons, for making use of the protections afforded by the anti- sexual harassment policy, or for disclosing, reporting, or testifying about violations of the Act.

Additional Requirements
An employee or representative of employees that successfully brings a claim under this Act shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.  An award of economic damages shall not exceed $350 for each violation.  Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate violation.

Massachusetts Panic Button Law

Date of compliance
Ordinance is still pending: Will take effect 1 year after passage
Hotels with at least 25 rooms are required to provide employees assigned to work in guestrooms or in any enclosed area, where no other employees are present and where guests may be reasonably expected to be present, with panic buttons.  Hotels are required to develop and maintain a program that provides employees with information, written or otherwise, in order to educate hotel employees regarding the use of panic buttons.  Employees should also be informed of their rights in the event their panic buttons are activated, and employees should be encouraged to activate panic buttons when appropriate.

Long Beach, CA Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
Any hotel containing 50 or more guestrooms must become compliant no later than 6 months following the effective date of November 13, 2018.
All other hotels containing less than 50 guest rooms are required to become compliant no later than 1 year following the effective date of November 13, 2018.  Hotels are required to post a notice on doors of each guestroom, that displays the heading “The Law Protects Hotel Housekeepers and Hotel Employees From Threatening Behavior,” and a notice that the hotel is providing panic buttons to its specific employees.

Sacramento, CA Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
The ordinance became effective on March 29, 2018.  The county will provide a 60-day grace period for businesses to comply with the ordinance after it takes effect.

This bill applies to hotels and motels with 25 or more rooms that are located in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County.  It requires every hotel owner to provide each employee with a panic button or notification device.  Hotels are also required to develop, maintain, and comply with a written sexual harassment policy to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests.  The policy must describe the procedures the complaining employee and hotel shall follow in instances of alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment by guests.

Santa Monica, CA Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
The ordinance took effect on January 1, 2020.
Hotels must provide employees assigned to work in guestroom or rest rooms with safety devices to prevent sexual violence or threatening behavior.  The ordinance also requires hotels to use a certified Public Housekeeping Training Organization, in order to provide regular training for employees.

Oakland, CA Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
The deadline for compliance was July 1, 2020.
Hotels with 50 or more guestrooms must provide panic buttons to all hotel employees assigned to work in a guestroom or bathroom without other employees present.  Hotels are also prohibited from taking disciplinary actions against employees for the use of panic buttons, unless it is “clear and convincing” that employees knowingly made a false report of an emergency.  Hotels are also required to post a notice on doors of each guestroom, that displays the heading “The Law Protects Hotel Housekeepers and Hotel Employees From Threatening Behavior,” and a notice that the hotel is providing panic buttons to its specific employees.

Miami Beach, Florida Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
The deadline for compliance was August 1st, 2019.
Hotels are required to provide panic buttons or notification devices to each hotel or hostel employee.  Hotels are also required to post signs in guest rooms that a safety device has been given to hotel employees.  Non-compliance will result in a written warning for the first offense, a 2nd violation will result in a civil fine of $500, 3rd violation will result in a civil fine of $1,000 and the 4th and subsequent violation in the preceding six months will result in a civil fine of $2,000.

New York City Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
Providing emergency devices for unionized hospitality workers, in particular housekeepers, has been the law in New York City since 2013.
In early 2012, The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO, (Hotel Trades Council, abbreviated) for New York City fought in contract negotiations to have hotel workers who work in guest rooms, to be equipped with panic buttons.  The Hotel Association of New York approved the panic button devices in February of 2012.

Las Vegas, Nevada Panic Button Law

Date of Compliance
In 2018 the Las Vegas chapters of UNITE HERE’s Culinary and Bartender Unions negotiated contracts with local hotels in an effort to equip hotel and casino employees with panic buttons.
Two major casino companies, MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which respectively employ 24,000 and 12,000 union workers have already signed contracts in 2018 with the Culinary Union and implemented panic buttons for guest room attendants.  By 2019 nearly all Las Vegas housekeepers were equipped with critical panic button safety devices.

Proposed Hotel Panic Button Legislations
New Mexico, California, Washington D.C.

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