Sacramento set to require panic buttons for hotel workers to protect them from sex harassment

Sacramento will likely soon require 60 hotels in the city to give their workers “panic buttons” to protect them from sexual assault and harassment.

The hotels would have to provide all housekeepers with buttons at no cost to the employees. Workers would be able to press the buttons if they are about to witness an act of sexual harassment, such as masturbation. The button sends a notification to on-site staff who can immediately intervene.

Sacramento County’s Board of Supervisors adopted a similar ordinance in February 2018, but it did not cover the city. The city’s Law and Legislation Committee will consider the ordinance at its meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday. It will then likely go to the full City Council for adoption.

It took the city longer to get an ordinance for the City Council to approve because the city has more hotels than the county, said Councilman Eric Guerra, who used to work as a janitor for California State University, Sacramento, and has been advocating for the ordinance.

The county’s ordinance impacted 24 hotels in unincorporated Sacramento County, while the city’s would impact 60, a city staff report said. Both apply to hotels that have 25 or more rooms.

“As we become more of a destination for tourism and people are coming to Sacramento, we also wanna make sure that our workers and our residents are safe and we’re not inviting any opportunity for people to take advantage of our workers,“ Guerra said. “(The workers) are mainly women and mainly women of color who don’t have many resources to defend themselves.”

Workers in unionized New York City hotels have been carrying panic buttons since 2013, the staff report said. Chicago, Seattle and Miami Beach also require panic buttons or other devices.

Hotels that violate the ordinance could face fines between $25 and $2,500 per day for each day the violation continues, the staff report said.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.