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December 28, 2017

Americas: Sexual Harassment Scandals Shine Spotlight on Vulnerability of Hotel Workers

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The recent spate of sexual harassment scandals may be helping hotel workers make the case for employer-provided safety procedures. Unionized hotel workers in New York City have access to safety features because of the 2011 case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a housekeeper at the Sofitel New York Hotel, and although the case was ultimately dismissed, it highlighted the vulnerability of employees working alone in large hotels. Members of the union Unite Here working in NYC hotels have had access to GPS-equipped panic buttons, electronic whistles that alert security personnel, or iPads that can trigger a call for help since 2013. 

The recent scandals involving Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile celebrities have helped the case for hotel workers outside NYC to get similar protections. In Chicago in November a city ordinance now requires that hotel housekeepers be given panic buttons that identify their location. According to the Miami Herald, authorities in Miami Beach are looking into legislation on mandatory panic buttons for hotel staff, and possibly other protections for workers who report harassment and monitoring for guests with a history of improper behavior.

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