Hotel workers need panic buttons: New York lawmaker

Tue May 24, 2011 5:50pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York hotel workers would have electronic "panic buttons" under a new bill proposed after then-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid.

"To my knowledge this would be the first in the nation," Democratic Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who represents the New York City Borough of Queens, said by telephone on Tuesday.

Lancman, who chairs the Assembly subcommittee on workplace safety, said attacks on hotel maids and housekeepers were relatively common although he had no data to support that.

"Unfortunately, a lot of men think that when they are away from home the normal rules of social conduct don't apply, and a young woman entering a hotel room, particularly if she looks like an undocumented immigrant who doesn't have the means to report (an assault) -- they think she's fair game," he said.

Strauss-Kahn faces charges of sexual assault and attempting to rape a housekeeper at the Sofitel hotel in New York on May 14. He is being held in an apartment in Manhattan under armed guard after being freed on bail on Friday.

Strauss-Kahn has denied the charges but has resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Hotel workers needing urgent help could use the panic buttons to contact the hotel's front desk or its security and then police could be called if necessary, Lancman said.

Other industries, including utilities and industrial firms, already use such devices to protect workers who may be in remote locations.

"This reasonable proposal would ensure that thousands of hotel workers are not put at unnecessary risk," said Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council.   Continued...

<p>People pass by the Sofitel hotel after IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged on Sunday with sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid, May 15, 2011. REUTERS/Chip East</p>