Major hotels to give workers panic buttons to prevent sexual harassment

Major hotels to give workers panic buttons to prevent sexual harassment

The CEOs of major hotel companies are launching a new initiative to improve employee safety by providing workers with safety devices to call for help in cases of sexual harassment or assault.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and major hotel brands, including Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham, announced the 5-Star Promise on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

The initiative includes giving employee safety devices (ESDs) to hotel employees across the nation and enhancing workforce sexual harassment training, policies and research.

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The devices, which will be distributed to all members of hotel staff, allow individuals in distress to send their exact location to a help desk or security.The devices will be absorbed into the operating costs of hotels and will be adapted to suit the specific needs of each location.

AHLA Chairman of the Board Mark Carrier acknowledged that sexual harassment and worker safety is an issue that affects the whole industry and requires cooperation to address.

“Today we come together with the awareness that there are issues that transcend competition,” Carrier said. “There are issues that working together and aligning can make significant positive difference.”

Carrier was joined by AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar, as well as CEOs from some of the participating hotel chains to announce the initiative.

Tina Tchen, co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and partner at Sandler LLP, was also present for the announcement. Time’s Up and other national organizations working to combat sexual violence, sexual assault and trafficking, worked in partnership with the industry group to develop the 5-Star initiative and improve worker safety.

Tchen said that 5-Star is an “unprecedented announcement on behalf an entire industry” to address sexual violence in the workplace.

Citing her past experiences as a working single mother, Tchen noted the critical need for industries to make changes to protect their employees.

“Change has to come from within,” Tchen said. “Because that’s how we’ll make sustainable workplaces that are safe and respectful to all workers, where everyone can reach their full potential.”

A study by the Center for American Progress found that the accommodation and food service industry – which includes hotels, inns and other hospitality establishments – accounted for 14.2 percent of sexual harassment claims filed through 2005 and 2015.

Elie Maalouf, IHG Chief Executive Officer, Americas, emphasized the importance of improving education about harassment and workforce training. He said it was key to fostering a “culture of respect” in the industry.

Maalouf said that while much of the focus will be on the safety devices, the other elements of the 5-part plan were equally important.

“The primary objective we have is to avoid having problems,” Maalouf said. “The other four elements of the five star plan are as important and to be frank, they’re the ones that will stop us from having to respond to the devices.”

5-Star plans to distribute ESDs and offer enhanced training to all managed hotels across the U.S. by the year 2020.

Lugar said that the AHLA does not have an industry-wide estimate for how much the program will cost, though she estimated that it would amount to “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“This is an ongoing challenge, but the hotel industry is steadfast in our commitment to be part of the solution,” Lugar said.

This story was updated on Sept. 7th at 12:48 p.m.