New York considers requiring ‘panic buttons’ for hotel housekeepers

NEW YORK A New York lawmaker is proposing a measure that would require hotels to provide housekeepers with an emergency “panic button” to help prevent sexual assaults by guests.

The bill, under consideration in the New York State Assembly, comes a week after the president of the International Monetary Fund was charged with sexually assaulting a housekeeper at Sofitel New York. The proposed legislation calls for hotels to provide a small device for housekeepers that would, at the touch of a button, trigger an audible alarm or alert hotel security.

“We send hotel workers—housekeepers—into rooms by themselves without any other staff, without any other security,” says the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Rory Lancman.

Some hotel executives gathered in New York City this week for Reuters Luxury and Fashion Summit are receptive to the idea. “It’s a wake-up call, any time you get any incident like this,” Strategic Hotels and Resorts Inc. CEO Laurence Geller tells Reuters. “You revise your protocols and procedures.

“Am I going to say whether or not there’ll be panic buttons with maids or whether there’ll be things like that? It’s not illogical.”

Marriott International Chief Operating Officer Arne Sorenson says his company is reviewing procedures to ensure housekeepers’ safety. “This is still a fairly rare and exceptional event, thankfully, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it,” he says.