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Employee Panic Buttons Offered After Maid Attacks

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on June 03, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Should you give your employees panic buttons? Sexual harassment of housekeepers at prominent New York City hotels has raised awareness of the dangers that employees may face in the work place.

In response to the concern of employers for sexual harassment of their workers, The Pierre and Sofitel hotels have decided to give panic buttons to housekeepers.

This is in response to the string of housekeeper-related sexual harassment cases that have arisen in hotels. Two weeks ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former IMF chief, was arrested on sexual assault and attempted rape of a maid at the Sofitel.

And now, Egyptian businessman Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar was arrested for sexually abusing a maid at The Pierre, reports Slate. As an employer, should you be concerned about your employees' safety? And, what safeguards should you take to protect your employees?

Clearly, these were the types of questions that were on the minds of the owners of The Pierre and Sofitel Hotels. The newly introduced panic buttons will allow housekeepers to quickly alert security if they feel threatened in any way, a safeguard against potentially dangerous guests, according to NPR.

The Pierre is planning on implementing models that are similar to those used by the elderly to alert the central security offices, and will be put into place once a system can be developed, reports NPR.

The New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council has already begun to lobby for statewide legislation making the panic buttons mandatory at all hotels within the state, said Peter Ward, president of the council, to the Wall Street Journal.

Employers and small businesses should take note. Employers could be found liable for sexual harassment that occurs on their premises, even if the employer is not the perpetrator. For example, if a coworker is perpetrating sexual harassment on another employee, and the employer is aware of this and does not take action, then the employer could be found liable. Similarly, employers usually have a duty to take preventative actions to ensure that their employees have a safe and secure environment.

As an employer, this does not necessarily mean you need to give out panic buttons for sexual harassment prevention. But, employers and sexual harassment in the workplace can spell liability for a business, even if the employer is not the responsible party.

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