Accommodations/food service State laws

New NJ law mandates panic buttons for hotel housekeepers

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Photo: Igor Vershinsky/iStockphoto

Trenton, NJ — Calling it the first state law of its kind, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on June 11 signed a bill intended to help protect hotel housekeeping and room service workers against assault and harassment.

S.2986 requires hotel employers to provide a “panic button” device to employees who are assigned to work in a guest room without coworkers present. If the device is activated, an appropriate staff member, such as a manager, security officer or supervisor, must respond immediately to the worker’s location. Employees who believe they are in danger are allowed to stop working and leave the area immediately to await assistance.

Scheduled to go into effect in January 2020, the law applies to all hotels in the state with more than 100 guest rooms, and covers full- and part-time workers.

Employers will be required to:

  • Report any incident involving an alleged crime to law enforcement.
  • Maintain a list of accusations against a guest for five years from the date of the first incident.
  • Notify all housekeeping and room service workers of the location of any guest included on the list.
  • Conduct an internal investigation to gather information on accusations against a guest.
  • Decline occupancy to any guest who is convicted of a crime brought to the hotel’s attention by an employee pressing a panic device.

“No one should ever have to work in fear,” Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), the state’s Senate Majority Leader, said in a June 11 press release. “The isolating nature of hotel employees servicing private rooms puts them in a uniquely vulnerable position. A panic device to communicate to authorities outside of the room in case of harassment and assault will go a long way to ensuring their safety, security and workplace well-being.”

 

According to the Associated Press, similar legislation is under consideration in Illinois, Florida and Washington state.

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