Should hotel housekeepers have panic buttons?

Recent revelations about sexual abuse and harassment in Hollywood, the media and politics have sparked a national outcry. However, little attention has been paid to one of the occupational groups most vulnerable to sexual abuse: hotel housekeepers.

Just ask any hotel housekeeper. They are regularly harassed and propositioned – and some suffer serious physical and psychological injuries from sexual assaults. In response, some hotels are issuing “panic buttons” to their employees. These GPS-equipped devices can summon help when a hotel employee is threatened or attacked by a guest.

Should Denver require hotels to issue panic buttons?

Seattle and Chicago have passed ordinances requiring hotels to issue panic buttons to hotel employees. In addition, provisions in union contracts in New York City require hotels to issue panic buttons to unionized hotel workers. Perhaps Denver and other cities in Colorado should pass similar ordinances as well.

To deal with the problem of sexual assaults and physical abuse on their properties, some hotels are issuing panic buttons on their own. The presence of such devices could reduce the frequency of injuries and resulting medical costs. In addition, hotels who fail to take measures to prevent assaults could be held liable for allowing a hostile work environment, giving them an additional incentive to issue panic buttons.

Hotel housekeeping can be hazardous

This may be surprising to some perhaps, but the numbers show that hotel housekeeping can be a hazardous occupation. In fact, the nonfatal injury rate for housekeepers is actually higher than that for loggers, generally considered to be a dangerous job.

In addition to injuries from assaults, hotel housekeepers can suffer musculoskeletal injuries, repetitive stress injuries, toxic exposure injuries from cleaning chemicals, and other types of injuries.

Hotel housekeepers who have suffered any type of injury while working may be able to obtain  workers’ compensation benefits. They should speak with an attorney if they have questions about filing a claim or getting benefits.

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