After the Me Too movement spread to the hospitality industry, casting a harsh light on the “hell” that some hotel workers said they endured from employers and guests alike, executives from Marriott, Hilton and other hotel giants vowed last year to enact changes to protect employees from sexual harassment and other abuse.
On Monday, a major industry group announced that dozens of hospitality companies — and thousands of their hotels — have since followed through with this promise.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association said more than 5,000 hotels and resorts in the U.S. have offered employees safety devices and training this year specifically aimed at tackling sexual harassment in the workplace.
The group said another 15,000 hotel properties have committed to offer safety devices and training to workers by 2020.
Last year, 17 hotel companies, including Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG, signed the AHLA’s 5-Star Promise, a voluntary commitment to improve policies, trainings and resources related to employee safety.
AHLA said an additional 39 companies have since signed the pledge.
“As an industry of people taking care of people, we have always been deeply committed to safety and security for our employees and guests. We have a responsibility to ensure they feel safe and secure,” Chip Rogers, the group’s president, said in a statement. “I’m proud of the progress we have made as an industry over the past year, and we will continue our efforts to ensure America’s hotels are safe places for all those who work in and visit them.”
As the Los Angeles Times noted, leaders of unions that represent hotel workers lauded AHLA’s announcement as a positive step forward, but said hotels need to ensure that the safety devices being provided to employees will actually be helpful.
“It’s a step in the right direction but it’s no guarantee to bring help unless it’s a real panic system,” Kurt Petersen, a spokesman for Unite Here Local 11, which represents 30,000 hospitality workers in California and Arizona, told the paper.
Devices that merely emit a loud noise like a whistle may not be effective if the employee in need is in an isolated part of the hotel, the LA Times noted. AHLA’s pledge does not include a strict definition of what kind of safety device hotels should provide.
States like Washington and New Jersey, as well as several cities including New York and Miami Beach, have recently passed legislation requiring at least some hotel workers to be given panic buttons at work. Though industry insiders and labor activists appear to agree that such devices can be effective in protecting hotel employees, some activists have urged hotels to also punish guests accused of sexual misconduct as a way to deter such behavior ― a step that hotel companies have been unwilling to take.
Though AHLA did not specify this week which hotels had already rolled out safety devices to their workers, Marriott has vowed to put a system in place that will allow employees to “press a button that will summon help if they feel their safety is threatened or if they encounter an emergency situation while at work.”
“We have identified preferred technology vendors and will have fully activated systems in at least nine major markets across the region by the end of 2019,” Marriott said in its pledge to AHLA, adding that it intends to “work toward full deployment” by the end of 2020.
Hilton said it has deployed employee safety devices at its hotels in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Seattle; and Chicago.
Wyndham, which owns several hotel brands including La Quinta Inns, Ramada and Super 8, said it expects to “deploy safety devices to our managed team members and to make safety device options available to our franchise community in the third quarter of 2019.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.