Sexual harassment protections proposed for hotel workers

Posted in Sexual Harassment,Sexual Harassment at Work on May 26, 2016

Employers have a responsibility to protect their workers from sexual harassment and to respond to complaints of harassment. This does not just apply to allegations against co-workers and superiors. In customer-facing jobs, workers must also be protected from sexual harassment perpetrated by customers.

Some of the most vulnerable workers are those who work low-wage jobs where they are sometimes alone with customers. A good example is hotel workers who clean rooms or deliver room service. Recently, one group of these workers banded together to seek better workplace protections.

In Seattle, a union of more than 5,000 hotel and hospitality workers recently started a signature drive to introduce ballot initiative 124. If passed, it would offer extra protections to workers, including:

  • Requiring panic buttons for hotel employees who work alone in guest rooms
  • Requiring hotels to keep lists of customers who have been accused of sexual harassment and assault (some of whom may be banned from staying there)

The measure has other provisions which are not directly related to harassment and assault, yet which are also important. If the group can gather at least 20,000 signatures, the proposal would be put on the ballot for public consideration in November’s election.

A researcher with the union noted that “this initiative is really about making sure that women are protected no matter where the harassment is coming from.”

If passed, the initiative would extend these protections to hotel and hospitality workers only in Seattle. But as history has shown, positive changes in one city can quickly spread statewide and nationwide.