ILLINOIS HAS BECOME the second state to pass legislation to require some hotels to provide personal safety devices, aka “panic buttons,” to hotel employees. Like similar legislation passed by New Jersey in June, the new Illinois law also sets rules for how hotels are to respond when the devices are used.
Illinois’ Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act requires hotels and casinos to adopt anti-sexual harassment policies along with providing the panic buttons to certain employees. It also prohibits retaliation against an employee for using a panic button or filing a complaint under the sexual harassment policies.
“Unlike its New Jersey analogue, the Illinois law applies to all casinos and hotels located in Illinois, regardless of their size, number of guest rooms, etc.,” said The National Law Review. “Significantly, the term ‘employee’ includes both full- and part-time employees, as well as employees of subcontractors.”
Under the new law employees are required to immediately report any instance of alleged sexual assault or harassment by a guest. Employees fearful of sexual assault are allowed to stop working and leave the area where the situation occurs until their employer can assist them. They also are allowed paid time off to file a police report and testify about the incident.
“In a business of people taking care of people, we could not be successful without the eight million men and women in jobs that the hotel industry supports,” said America Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Chip Rogers in a statement. “That’s why our industry has for decades prioritized programs that protect our employees and guests and invested in the safety of our workforce.”
Last year, AHLA launched its 5-Star Promise that will provide panic buttons and training to hotel employees. The safety devices are currently being deployed and hotels in markets like New York, Washington, Chicago and Seattle, already provide them to employees. AHLA’s goal is to finish deploying the devices by 2020.
“Regardless of the industry they work in, employees should feel safe when they go to work each day,” said Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association.
The Illinois law becomes effective on July 1, 2020, and the National Law Review advises hotel and casino owners in the state to use the time to order the panic buttons.
Some cities have passed similar laws as well, but some were controversial. Last year the Washington State Court of Appeals overturned a Seattle law that required hotels to provide employees with emergency panic buttons and to ban guests who harassed employees. AHLA was party to the suit, saying the law denied due process to hotels and guests alike.