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Hotels Are Now Required to Provide Workers With Panic Buttons Under New California Law

Everything California hoteliers need to know to remain compliant and what this could mean for other states


Over the last few years, numerous states and cities across the U.S. have worked to reform hotel on-property safety by implementing enhanced workplace safety standards and regulations. Many of these initiatives were brought to life in the wake of the AHLA’s 5-Star Promise, a voluntary commitment made by American Hotel and Lodging Association members to enhance policies, training, and resources surrounding hotel safety and security. The 5-Star Promise was announced in September 2018, and since then, over 20,000 hotel properties have pledged to protect their staff and guests better.


Following this pivotal trend, the mayor of Los Angeles signed a new ordinance last month, officially titled the ‘Regarding Workplace Security, Workload, Wage, and Retention Measure for Hotel Workers Ordinance.’ With this new law set to take effect on August 12th, we’ve outlined everything Los Angeles hoteliers need to know to remain compliant moving forward.


Prioritizing the Safety and Wellbeing of Hotel Staff

The ‘Regarding Workplace Security, Workload, Wage, and Retention Measure for Hotel Workers’ ordinance, also referred to as the ‘City of Los Angeles Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance’ (HWPO), emphasizes the proactive mitigation of risks commonly faced by hotel workers due to the isolated nature of their work, including sexual assault and other crimes.


It’s important to note that this ordinance applies to all “hotel employers” in the City of Los Angeles, which is officially defined as “any person who owns, controls, or operates a hotel in the City, and includes any person or contractor who, in a managerial supervisory, or confidential capacity, employs hotel workers to provide services at a hotel in conjunction with the hotel’s purpose.” Notably, these measures also include any contracted or leased premises/services operated in conjunction with a hotel, meaning they apply not only to the hotel brand but also to restaurants, spas, etc., offered within hotels.


As part of this law, LA hotels will now be required to provide all hotel workers assigned to a guest room or restroom (including BOH restrooms) with personal-security devices to protect them from violent or otherwise threatening acts beginning on August 12th. This includes any individual employed by the hotel, including part-time and full-time employees and contractors, but excludes managerial or supervisory employees. With these new measures in place, hotels must post signage about panic buttons on the back of guest room doors and in restrooms.


The ordinance also maintains that hotels with more than 45 rooms must pay wage premiums “when giving workloads that exceed specified limits” and obtain written consent from workers who work more than 10 hours a day. Hotels that demonstrate economic hardship, however, may be given an exemption from this requirement. Finally, the ordinance also establishes maximum square footage requirements that a worker is assigned to clean in hotels with more than 45 rooms.


Comprehensive Safety Training

LA hotels must now implement annual staff safety training to ensure all parties are comfortable utilizing panic buttons, and any new hires should receive training within 30 days of their hire. Moreover, training must be provided in English, Spanish, and any language spoken by at least 10% of the hotel’s workforce annually. With the training requirement, the ordinance states that properties must have “response protocols,” implying the requirement to have written SOPs in place, including:

  • Who should respond?

  • How do they respond?

  • What should they do when they respond to various incidences

  • How do they document this?

  • Do they have the ability to send someone home?

LA hotels that fail to comply with these measures will be subject to consequences, including civil lawsuits filed by the city or any aggrieved person, actual damages, and statutory fines up to $100 per aggrieved person per day that the hotel is in violation. Beyond those official reprimands, hotels that refuse to embrace our industry’s shift to prioritize on-property safety will likely face steep reputational costs.


How to Select the Right Panic Button for Your Hotel

To comply with these new measures, Los Angeles hotels must first understand how panic buttons are defined under LA law. Specifically, these devices are defined as “portable electronic emergency contact devices” that transmit the location of an at-risk staff member and provide a direct contact between a hotel worker and hotel security guard or responsible manager.


These devices should be single-click, easy to carry, easy to use, and able to transmit alerts to a designated security guard or support team who can provide immediate on-scene assistance in the event of an incident or emergency. According to the ordinance, hotels that are smaller (fewer than 60 rooms) can use a supervisor or manager to fulfill this role so long as they have at least three hours of training. Notably, legacy noisemakers, alarm bells, and other similar devices are not sufficient in the eyes of LA lawmakers. Instead, hoteliers must seek out staff safety platforms that offer location identification capabilities (i.e., indoor GPS or similar technology to get the employee’s location) and the ability to pinpoint an employee’s precise (real-time) location.


When vetting prospective safety platforms, hoteliers should prioritize platforms that can seamlessly integrate with their existing infrastructure. With this in mind, it’s important to note that concrete builds or décor can impact which technology hotels deploy and the respective layout of that technology, and RF (radio frequency) or UF (ultrasonic frequency) systems have high initial costs due to expensive infrastructure changes. Hoteliers should also seek vendors offering cloud software updates and ongoing platform support.


Fortunately, new-age panic buttons, like TraknProtect’s best-in-class safety platform, utilize Bluetooth technology, are easy to implement, offer robust functionality, and maximize the use of existing hotel infrastructure. At TraknProtect, our mission is simple – offer employee safety at the touch of a button. Our platform is easy to install, easy to implement, economical to use, and, with the enactment of the City of Los Angeles Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance, we are one step closer to truly transforming hotel safety worldwide.