Panic button catch-up

Local hotel association’s members cool to idea of blacklisting guests who violate hotel policies

The Me Too movement shed light on pervasive misconduct in America, but hotel employees continue to face harassment and assault at alarming rates. The city of Sacramento just took a step toward changing that.

On December 11, the City Council’s Law and Legislative Committee considered additional safety measures for hotel workers. The most notable proposal would require hotels to provide employees with panic buttons: portable emergency contact devices that immediately summon help.

Consuelo Hernandez, Sacramento’s director of government affairs, suggested that hotel operators also be required to establish and distribute written sexual harassment policies.

Councilman Eric Guerra noted it was time for the city to catch up to Sacramento County on the worker safety front. The county passed its own panic button policy in February. “It makes no sense if you cross Stockton Boulevard, or if you cross one of these areas, and you have one ordinance and then another ordinance,” Guerra said.

The push to bring added safeguards to city hotels was fueled by conversations with members of the Unite Here labor union and the Sacramento Hotel Association. Shelly Moranville, incoming president of the hotel association and vice chairwoman of Visit Sacramento, told the committee her industry is supportive of the panic button proposal, but added local operators don’t want to be mandated to blacklist guests who violate the hotels’ policies. She said hotels also don’t want to be required to conduct additional sexual harassment training.

California has seen at least two notable panic button proposals face rejection—in the city of Long Beach and at the state level. In both cases, additional provisions were tacked on and deemed too costly by critics. Hernandez is working to see that Sacramento’s proposal meets a different fate.

“I anticipate working with stakeholders, trying to address any concerns that they may have,” she said, “and to develop a meaningful program that would benefit both workers and the hotel and motel owners.”

The Law and Legislative Committee advanced the proposal to the full City Council as staff continues to work on it.