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New Jersey’s governor on Tuesday signed legislation to require hotels to provide panic devices to protect hotel employees from sexual assault and harassment while performing housekeeping duties.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed S.B. 2986, which unanimously passed both the state’s House and Senate earlier this year.
“We must protect the safety of workers in the hospitality industry,” Gov. Murphy said in a news release. “This new law will ensure that hotel employees performing their duties will have the means to summon immediate assistance if they are in danger.”
The legislation was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, who said the panic device will help ensure the safety, security and workplace well-being of hotel employees servicing private rooms.
The law will require hotels with 100 or more rooms to provide a two-way radio or other device to all part-time and full-time workers — including contractors — performing housekeeping or room service duties to enable them to quickly summon assistance from a security officer, supervisor or other appropriate hotel staff member.
The law also stipulates that an employee who uses the panic device and believes he or she is in danger may leave the area immediately to await the arrival of assistance without fear of retribution.
Under the law, hotels will also be required to keep a record of accusations of sexual assault, harassment or any other inappropriate contact against guests, and maintain the record for a period of five years, and report incidents to law enforcement.
Hotels that violate the law can be subject to a civil penalty up to $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for subsequent violations.
The law is expected to take effect in six months.
The union representing 14,000 hotel workers in Las Vegas is now asking hotels to give every housekeeper a "panic button” to help prevent assaults on hotel staff, a spokeswoman for Culinary Workers Union Local 226 told Business Insurance on Thursday.