Hotels are giving housekeepers 'panic buttons' they can use if they feel threatened by a guest

Spencer Platt / Getty ImagesHotels have come under increased scrutiny for sexual misconduct faced by their workers and guests.

  • Hotels are starting to give their housekeepers “panic buttons” that allow them to immediately report guests who make unwanted contact or advances.
  • The panic buttons have been or are set to be introduced on a wide scale in New York City, Seattle, and Chicago.
  • Workers’ rights advocates have paid particular attention to hotel employees.

As businesses take more aggressive steps to combat sexual harassment, a new report from Bloomberg reveals that some hotels are giving their housekeepers “panic buttons” they can press if they feel threatened by a guest.

Workers’ rights advocates have fought for more effective methods for hotel employees to report and protect themselves from inappropriate behaviour from guests. They argue that the power dynamics and language barriers some hotel employees face make it difficult for them to report guests who make them uncomfortable.

Advocates have suggested giving employees “panic buttons” that could immediately alert security personnel to intervene if an employee feels threatened by a guest. The buttons can come in the form of electronic whistles, iPads with alert functions, or GPS-equipped devices.

Housekeepers in unionized, New York City hotels have been given panic buttons since 2013. A union representative told Bloomberg that panic buttons were activated at least two times in November at a single hotel in Midtown. The hotel kicked out the guest in both instances.

In 2016, Seattle citizens voted for legislation that requires hotels to give their employees similar devices, and Chicago’s City Council approved a similar measure in October. Miami Beach is discussing similar policies.

These measures come at a time of increased scrutiny for hotels and the services that facilitate reservations. After being criticised for censoring user accounts of sexual assault, travel rating and reservation site TripAdvisor has introduced new measures to make sure similar incidents are not hidden from users.

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