The nanny state of California is taking the fight against sexual harassment to the extreme, because whenever there is an issue that needs to be solved, you can leave it to the Golden State to find a big-government solution for it.
To that end, this week two Democrat California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would force hotel owners to install “panic buttons” their staff could use to call for help in case they could not handle a guest in a dangerous situation.
It was introduced Wednesday by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who co-authored the legislation with Assemblyman Bill Quirk, according to CNBC.
“We want to protect our most vulnerable women workers, hotel maids who are going into rooms alone, from sexual harassment,” Muratsuchi said, while explaining the bill to the Los Angeles Times.
If passed, the bill would also provide for a three-year ban to be imposed on any guest who has been accused of violence or sexual harassment, and the hotels could keep the records on hand for five years.
In addition to requiring hotels to provide panic buttons to employees who work alone in rooms, the bill requires hotels to take written complaints from employees and keep them for five years. Any complaint backed by evidence including a statement given under penalty of perjury would result in a guest being banned from a hotel for three years.
Hotels would also be required to post a notice on the inside of hotel room doors warning guests about the consequences of sexual harassment.
And it is important to note that “backed by evidence” is arbitrary and those punishments come merely from being accused. Nothing has to be proven.
“Hotel workers often work alone, cleaning room after room — thus making them vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances and worse, victims of assault,” Quirk said. “I am proud to be working on this bill with Assemblymember Muratsuchi to not only raise awareness on the issue, but do more to create a safer working environment for hotel workers.”
A survey done in July by Unite Here Local 1, titled “Hands Off, Pants On,” found that 58 percent of hotel workers claimed that they have been sexually harassed by a guest, and 49 percent of female employees surveyed in Chicago said they have been to rooms where a guest answered the door naked.
“It is the intent of this measure to protect hotel employees from violent assault, including sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and to enable those employees to speak out when they experience harassment on the job,” read the introduction to the proposed bill.
The bill is similar to one passed by the city of Seattle, which requires hotel employers to provide panic buttons to hotel housekeepers. Another similar piece of legislation has been passed in Chicago. Long Beach, Calif. considered a similar ordinance but decided against it, according to CNBC.
The proposed California legislation follows high-profile sexual assault and harassment charges lodged against high-profile people, including Oscar-winning film producer Harvey Weinstein. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said it is considering possible criminal charges against Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually harassing or assaulting several women over the years. Weinstein, who has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex, also is under investigation by authorities in New York.
“As we’ve yet to see the bill in print, we wouldn’t have a position yet,” said Lynn Mohrfeld, a spokesperson for the California Hotel and Lodging Association, the industry’s state lobbying organization. “That said, the safety of guests and hotel employees is a top priority. While no industry is immune to dealing with sexual harassment as the headlines over recent weeks have shown, our industry has in place procedures and protocols for employees around reporting and prevention and these are continuously reviewed and updated.”
Added Mohrfeld, “As an industry, we will always continue to focus on ensuring hotels are secure places for all those who work and visit them.”
“Hotel employees deserve to feel safe when they are doing their job,” Muratsuchi said in a statement. “We have heard much about the danger for hotel maids, who often work in situations that put them at risk of sexual assault or harassment. This would be an important step in keeping those employees safe from harm.”