Senator LORETTA WEINBERG
District 37 (Bergen)
Requires hotels to provide panic buttons to hotel employees for protection from unsafe working conditions while performing housekeeping duties.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning the protection of hotel employees from sexual assault and other dangerous working conditions and supplementing Title 29 of the Revised Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Legislature finds and declares that the hospitality industry is a profitable and vital component of the State's economy, and that hotel employees play a significant role in providing hospitality services to tourists and other guests at hotels throughout the State.
Due to the unique nature of hotel work, hotel employees are particularly vulnerable to unsafe working conditions because they often work alone in hotel guest rooms, which sometimes may be occupied. This solitary work places them at risk of assault, including sexual assault, and sexual harassment. However, hotel employers have not adequately addressed the safety concerns of hotel employees.
Hotel employees are often marginalized members of society with limited means to support themselves and their families, and without adequate support, may feel intimidated to report inappropriate and criminal conduct for fear of repercussions or retaliation from their employers.
It is appropriate and necessary to protect hotel employees from violent acts, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate or criminal conduct to which they may be subjected while performing their duties.
2. As used in this act:
"Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.
"Hotel" means any hotel, inn, boarding house, motel or other establishment whose proprietor offers and accepts payment for rooms, sleeping accommodations or board and lodging and retains the right of access to, and control of, the premises which are let, which contains at least 25 guest rooms.
"Hotel employee" or "employee" means any natural person who works full-time or part-time at a hotel for or under the direction of the hotel employer or any subcontractor of the hotel employer for wages or salary or remuneration of any type under a contract or subcontract of employment.
"Hotel employer" or "employer" mean any person, including a corporate office or executive, who directly or indirectly or through an agent or any other person, including though the services of a temporary staffing agency, employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of any person employed in furtherance of the hotel's provision of lodging and other related services for the public.
"Guest room" means any room made available by a hotel for overnight occupancy by guests.
"Panic button" means a portable emergency contact device which an employee can quickly and easily activate to effectively summon immediate on-scene assistance from a security officer, manager or supervisor, or other appropriate hotel staff member.
3. a. A hotel employer shall provide a panic button to each hotel employee assigned to work in a guest room without any other employees present, at no cost to the employee. An employee may use the panic button if the employee reasonably believes there is an ongoing crime, harassment, or other emergency in the employee's presence. The hotel employee may cease work and leave the immediate area of perceived danger or inappropriate conduct to await the arrival of assistance, and no adverse action may be taken against the hotel employee for such action.
b. Upon a hotel employee activating a panic button, an appropriate staff member of the hotel, manager or supervisor, or security officer shall respond promptly to the location of the hotel employee. A hotel employer shall:
(1) Keep a record of the accusations it receives that a guest has committed an act of violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate conduct towards a hotel employee and shall maintain the name of the guest so accused on the list for a period of five years from the date of the incident.
(2) Conduct an internal investigation to determine as much identifying information about an accused guest as is reasonably possible. Upon conclusion of the investigation, if the hotel employee provides a certified statement of an incident involving an assault or sexual harassment, or if the hotel employer determines there is information in addition to or independent of a hotel employee's statement that reasonably supports the hotel employee's description of the incident, the hotel shall decline to provide occupancy to the guest for a period of at least three years from the date of the incident. A hotel employee shall not be required to provide a certified statement.
(3) Report any incident involving alleged criminal conduct by a guest to the appropriate law enforcement agency and cooperate with any investigation undertaken by the law enforcement agency.
(4) Notify all hotel employees of the presence and location of any guest named on the list in accordance with paragraph (1) of subsection b. of this section, and provide hotel employees, other than the hotel employee who activated the panic button, the option of either servicing the guest room of a guest on the list with a partner hotel employee or opting out of servicing the room for the duration of the guest's stay at the hotel. The hotel employee who activated the panic button shall immediately be reassigned to a different work area away from the guest room of the guest for the duration of the guest's stay at the hotel.
c. The hotel employer shall develop and maintain a program, which may include written information, to educate hotel employees regarding the use of panic buttons and their rights in the event the hotel employees activate their buttons, and to encourage hotel employees to activate panic buttons when appropriate.
d. The hotel employer shall advise guests of the panic buttons it provides to hotel employees either by:
(1) requiring guests to acknowledge the policy as part of the hotel terms and conditions upon checking in to the hotel; or
(2) placing signs on the interior side of guest room doors in a prominent location and in large font, detailing the panic button policy and the rights of hotel employees.
4. a. A hotel employer who violates any provision of this act shall be subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation, collectible by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development in a summary proceeding pursuant to the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999," P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).
b. The commissioner shall, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this act.
5. This act shall take effect on the first day of the sixth month next following enactment, except that the commissioner may take any anticipatory administrative action in advance as shall be necessary for the implementation of this act.
This bill would require hotels to equip hotel employees, at no cost to the employees, with panic buttons for the protection of hotel employees against inappropriate conduct by guests when hotel employees are servicing guest rooms by themselves. The panic button requirement applies to hotels with at least 25 guest rooms.
Under the bill, "panic button" means a portable emergency contact device which an employee can quickly and easily activate to summon immediate on-scene assistance from a security officer, manager or supervisor, or other appropriate hotel staff member.
The bill also requires hotels to investigate these incidents and report any criminal conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Due to the unique nature of hotel work, hotel employees are particularly vulnerable to unsafe working conditions because they often work alone in hotel rooms, which sometimes may be occupied. This solitary work places them at risk of assault, including sexual assault, and sexual harassment. However, hotel employers have not adequately addressed the safety concerns of hotel employees.
It is necessary to protect hotel employees from violent acts, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate or criminal conduct to which they may be subjected while performing their duties.