Legislative, unions, and hotel brand requirements regarding an employee safety
Before the hospitality industry was plunged into a period of prolonged uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed a collective push towards an industry-wide culture of enhanced safety. The state of the industry was, after all, hardly a well-kept secret.
Over time, as news of accidents or incidents between hotel staff and guests continued to break and permeate across the industry, while staff turnover remained notoriously high, it became clear that hospitality brands could no longer sweep this issue under the rug. It is estimated that around 2 million rooms will fall under mandates for hotel panic button compliance in 2022. The issue of staff safety needed to finally, once and for all, be addressed by hotel brands of all sizes and scales.
The 5-Star Promise
To set a new industry precedent for staff safety, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) announced the 5-Star Promise in September of 2018. The 5-Star Promise was a voluntary commitment by AHLA members to enhance policies, training, and resources, including employee safety devices, that together are aimed at strengthening safety and security for hotel employees and guests. To date, nearly 60 member companies (representing an estimated 20,000 hotel properties) have made this pledge, and, as of today, nearly all these hotels have implemented four pillars of the promise. Some major hotel chains that have pledged include Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham. Of those hotels currently affiliated with the 5-Star Promise, more than 5,000 properties have implemented employee safety devices.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting impact on the travel and hospitality industry at large was devastating and, unfortunately, derailed the efforts of hotels around the world to overhaul their staff safety infrastructure. However, as we move on from the pandemic and shift into a period of recovery and regrowth, staff safety is once again placed under the spotlight. Now, it is estimated that around 2 million rooms will fall under mandates for panic button compliance in 2022, following any delays formerly attributed to the pandemic. With compliance dates unlikely to be awarded further deferral, hoteliers must get well acquainted with the legislative requirements faced by their hotel.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of many of the states currently impacted by panic button legislation and senate bills.
The New Jersey Senate Bill 2986 was introduced in Sept. 2018 to mitigate hotel workers' risk(s), including personal injury and assault. This law covers hotels and other establishments with 25 or more rooms for guests. It requires these establishments to equip employees who work alone while on the property with a dedicated staff safety device. Hotels cannot charge the employees for the devices. They must be an electronic device or two-way radio that the employees can keep on their person to quickly summon help in an emergency scenario.
Senate No. 2986 has required all New Jersey hotels with more than 100 rooms to provide hotel staff with a Bluetooth panic button since June 11, 2019. Any employer who fails to provide his or her employees with panic buttons could be subject to a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for the first infraction and up to $10,000 for subsequent violations.
All hotels and motels in the State of Washington with sixty rooms or more must provide employees with personal panic buttons. This law just recently came into effect on January 1, 2020, to effectively prevent instances of sexual harassment and sexual assault of isolated workers. To comply, all other hotels and motels with fewer than sixty rooms have until January 1, 2021. The Department of Labor is expected to provide guidance for hotel employers concerning implementing panic buttons.
All hotels and motels in the State of Washington with sixty rooms or more must provide employees with personal panic buttons. Although the law officially became effective on July 28, 2019, employers were given a grace period until January 1, 2020. At that point, all large hotel and motel employers (those with 60 or more rooms) were required to be in full compliance. All other affected employers had until January 1, 2021, to comply.
By July 1, 2020, every hotel in the State of Illinois with over 100 guest rooms was expected to provide part-time and full-time hotel staff with wireless workplace panic buttons. Non-compliant hotel companies could be subject to a fine between $250 and $500 for each violation of the Act, with each day that an offense continues counting as a separate infraction.
According to ordinance no. 2018-4207, which was passed on August 1, 2019, all Miami Beach hotels are required to provide staff who work alone while on a property with personal panic buttons. If an employer fails to comply, a written warning is sent. If an employer commits a second violation within six months, they will receive a civil fine of $500, followed by a $1,000 fine for the third offense and $2,000 for the fourth and all other ensuing offenses.
Now, in Seattle, panic buttons must be provided to all hotel employees who provide in-room services for hotels with sixty rooms or more, regardless of that employee’s position. As always, these workplace panic buttons must come at no cost to the employee, should be easy to carry, able to call for immediate help, and must not require continued activation by the employee.
Under Municipal Code 4-6-180, it is the responsibility of Chicago hotel employers to equip staff who ‘clean, inventory, inspect, or restock supplies in a guest room or restroom’ under circumstances where no other hotel staff is present with a work panic button or notification device. This ordinance has been in effect since July 1, 2018, and if an employer does not comply, they may be faced with a fine between $250 and $500 per violation.
Voters in Oakland, California, recently approved ballot "Measure Z," titled the "Oakland Minimum Wage Charter Amendment,” which imposes new minimum wages and employment standards for some hotel workers, including the use of personal safety devices.
The ordinance requires that a hotel employer provide a personal security device to each hotel worker assigned to work alone in a guest room or restroom facility. Employees may activate the device whenever they believe that violent or threatening conduct or an emergency occurs in their presence. The ordinance's personal security device provisions become effective as of January 1, 2022.
Santa Monica, California
Under Chapter 4.67 Hotel Worker Protection, the City of Santa Monica requires all hotels to provide their staff with hotel panic buttons – regardless of the hotel’s size – as of January 1, 2020. Santa Monica hotels cannot reprimand staff for activating the panic button during appropriate circumstances, and these devices must be provided at no cost to the employee.
City of Sacramento
The Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance came into effect July 14, 2020, which gave Sacramento hotels six months to implement panic buttons and hotel worker safety solutions. The Ordinance states that if an employer does not comply, they may face a fine between $25 and $2500 each day the violation ensues.
There has never been a better time to invest in your staff's safety and avoid fines. Thankfully, hotels no longer have to choose between security and the bottom line. With the TraknProtect employee safety platform, it’s easy, fast, and affordable to protect your employees and your business.