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New Jersey is first in the nation to require panic buttons for hotel workers

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/12/2019 Stacey Barchenger

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Video provided by The Associated Press

Employees who work alone in hotel rooms will soon be required to carry panic button devices, making New Jersey first in the nation to mandate the safety measure, according to the governor.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday signed a law requiring hotels with more than 100 rooms to provide employees such as housekeepers with the devices, a measure of protection for people who work alone. The law goes into effect in January.

“We must protect the safety of workers in the hospitality industry,” Murphy said in a statement after signing the bill into law in Atlantic City. “This new law will ensure that hotel employees performing their duties will have the means to summon immediate assistance if they are in danger.”

While New Jersey is the first state to require panic buttons, several major hotel companies have already said they will provide employees emergency alert devices amid an industry-wide reckoning with the prevalence of sexual assault prompted by the #MeToo movement.

Last year, police arrested and charged a man they said sexually assaulted a 51-year old woman working at Bally's Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

“No one should ever have to work in fear,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, a primary sponsor of the bill. “The isolating nature of hotel employees servicing private rooms puts them in a uniquely vulnerable position.”

Many of the country's largest hotel chains have already promised to provide workers with emergency alert devices. Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott International, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and the parent company of Motel 6 and Studio 6 all have pledged to provide the devices by 2020. Several cities, including Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., already require panic buttons. 

The hotel industry's push comes amid the #MeToo movement's heightened awareness of widespread sexual assault, as well as attention on human rights abuses such as human trafficking.

“Their line of work combines anonymity with seclusion and the risk of harassment and assault is a reality hotel workers face every day,” said Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex. “This law will give these employees a sense of safety most of us take for granted in our places of work and will empower them to protect themselves when in danger.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: New Jersey is first in the nation to require panic buttons for hotel workers

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