N.J. becomes first state to require hotel panic devices

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Tuesday requiring hotels with more than 100 guestrooms to provide housekeepers with panic devices. The law, intended to help protect hotel employees from sexual assault and other dangerous working conditions, is set to go into effect in January.

The legislation will additionally require hotel employers to develop and maintain a program educating employees on the use of panic devices and their rights should they use one. Hotel employers who do not comply with the law will be subject to penalty of at most $5,000 for the first violation and then $10,000 for each subsequent violation.

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“We must protect the safety of workers in the hospitality industry,” Murphy said in a statement released by his office. “This new law will ensure that hotel employees performing their duties will have the means to summon immediate assistance if they are in danger.”

The push for the use of panic devices has received wide support within the hospitality industry over the past year. Five major hotel companies—Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, IHG, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts—have pledged to roll out the devices at all their U.S. hotels by 2020.

“No one should ever be fearful doing their job, least of all associates on-property who are so vital to the success of our company and our industry,” Arne Sorenson, Marriott's president/CEO, said in a statement at the time. “The safety of everyone at our properties is always a top priority as is deterring and combatting harassment of any kind. I’m deeply proud to say our entire industry is unified around these important goals.”

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Last September, the AH&LA introduced the “5-Star Promise,” a pledge to provide hotel employees with greater safety and accountability. In addition to the rollout of personal safety devices, the initiative calls for mandatory anti-sexual-harassment policies, ongoing anti-sexual-harassment training, a commitment to encourage a culture of safety and partnerships with national organizations that fight sexual violence and assault and trafficking and promote workplace safety.

“Our Hyatt family is driven by our purpose: We care for people so they can be their best. There’s nothing more foundational to caring for people than making sure they feel safe at work,” Mark Hoplamazian, Hyatt's president/CEO, said in a statement from the AH&LA in September. “Our strict policies and protocols have never tolerated guest harassment of our colleagues, and we continue to apply fresh eyes to keep pace with changing needs.