Panic buttons in hotel to help protect housekeepers from harassment. Panic buttons in hotel to help protect housekeepers from harassment.

In a report by, advocates for hotel workers have been pushing hotels to equip housekeeping staff with panic buttons to ensure their safety from harassment from guests.

According to the report, Ely Dar, a 60-year-old immigrant from the Phillippines who works at the Westin Hotel in Downtown Seattle has thwarted numerous unwanted advances and lives in constant worry of dealing with the guests.

While there was no specific response in regards to Dar’s experiences, Marriott International, Westin’s parent company, senior director of global communications Jeff Flaherty said: “If we receive an allegation of inappropriate conduct, we take it very seriously and take appropriate responsive action.”

In a study conducted by United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), factors like language differences, power disparities between management and employment, physical isolation, alcohol consumption and dependency on customer satisfaction put housekeepers in particular in vulnerable positions.

EEOC commissioner Chai Feldblum said in a statement: “The employer is responsible for having a harassment-free workplace, even if the harassment is coming from a customer or client.”

Unite Here, a hotel workers union in the USA, mobilised the panic button issue after a housekeeper alleged Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monterey Fund (IMF) of sexual assault.

While the union hasn’t aggregated the data yet, a representative said that the button was used at least twice in one month at a hotel in New York City after threats from guests.

In NYC, since 2013, housekeepers in unionized hotels have been equipped with panic buttons to summon help when in need while in Seattle, hotel staff workers now have GPS-equipped buttons, electronic whistles that alert security or carry iPads with alert functions. Chicago’s city council has voted unanimously to require the same of all area house keepers.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association, which includes members like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and other independent properties, praised Chicago’s recent ordinance to implement panic buttons, stating that guests or employees, their safety was a top priority.

While the hotel’s responsibilities lies in both protecting the employees and complying with customer care, Debra Katz, a civil rights attorney at Marshall & Banks who represents employees in harassment cases, said in the story that the liability depends on whether they’re sufficiently aggressive in responding to allegations from employees and on the policies they have in place to prevent harassment in the first place.

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