Chicago hotels must now provide employees with panic buttons

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Help is just a button press away - at least that's the hope of thousands of hotel workers across Chicago, who now must be provided with a panic button while performing housekeeping duties.

Sunday was the deadline for employers to provide the panic buttons.

"We have very similar experiences. Some of my co-workers have been cornered in rooms, couldn't actually get out. Had to jump over a bed to leave the room," said hotel employee Latonia Marshall.

Stories like Marshall's are the reason a union representing hotel workers commissioned a survey of 500 hospitality employees in 2016.

"58 percent of the hotel workers we surveyed said they'd experienced sexual harassment by a guest," said Karen Kent of Unite Here Local 1. "49 percent said they'd seen a guest naked, had a guest expose themselves or had a guest flash them."

The measure requiring panic buttons was unanimously passed by Chicago City Council in October 2017. Several other cities, including New York City, Washington, D.C. and Seattle also have a law requiring panic buttons.

The law is compliant based, which means the city will rely on hotel workers to report employers who do not provide panic buttons.

"We see you, we hear you, we believe you and we value you," said Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia.
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