In 2018, a member of the California Assembly sponsored Assembly Bill 1761. The bill would protect hotel workers from all forms of sexual harassment and assault.
Hoteliers rebutted by asserting the bill would burden the hotel and motel industry. They objected to the expense and administrative logistics.
Assembly Bill 1761 requirements
The bill would require hotel employers to issue free devices to housekeepers called “panic buttons” to allow employees to work in guest rooms to signal for help. The bill, designed to protect workers from any form of criminal activity, would protect workers from sexual or other harassment that might occur in the worker’s presence. Any employee victimized by such acts could receive time off to seek law enforcement help, medical assistance, or other necessary accommodation without retaliation from the hotel employer.
In a setback for California housekeepers, the California State Senate Fiscal Committee shelved Assembly Bill 1761. The member of the Assembly who originally introduced the bill intends to reintroduce it in 2019.
Sacramento County protects hotel workers
Although legislation requiring panic buttons for hotel workers failed statewide, The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors successfully passed The Sacramento County Hotel Worker Protection Act of 2018.
A union representative for county housekeeping workers testified before the board, describing a few of the many incidents that caused employees to fear their jobs. She also stated 58% of Chicago hotel employees surveyed had been sexually harassed or assaulted at work.
Under the act, hotel and motel employers must provide a free panic button to each employee to summon a security officer for help; the ordinance requires employees to report the incident immediately to management. Facilities must provide a written sexual harassment policy that describes all banned activities and indicates proper actions for employees and managers to follow in the event of alleged sexual harassment or sexual assault.
The ordinance applies to facilities with 25 rooms or more. Currently, coverage applies to unincorporated Sacramento County and represents approximately 75% of all hotels and motels in Sacramento County.