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Panic buttons could be required at Miami Beach hotels to protect against assault

Miami Beach is now considering panic buttons as a way to protect the city’s more than 11,500 hotel workers from sexual harassment and assault.

by Alexa Liautaud
Dec 13 2017, 1:47pm

With the push of a button, maids and other hotel workers can notify security if they ever feel unsafe.

That’s what Miami Beach is now considering as a way to protect the city’s more than 11,500 hotel workers from sexual harassment and assault, after several other major cities across the United States have already implemented portable “panic buttons.”

The city’s commissioner, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, took the first step on Wednesday to pass a city ordinance that would make panic buttons mandatory for hotels. The panic button would be connected to hotel security, according to the Miami Herald.

“I've spoken informally to a few of our hotel owners on Miami Beach, and they said that they would be fine with installing this type of system,” Gonzalez told NPR. “And there's a lot of egregious things that happen. You know, a man is staying in a hotel room, and he says, 'I need some extra towels,' and then when the housekeeper walks in, they expose themselves.”

As for cost, Gonzalez said the projections were still up in the air but that the responsibility would fall to the hotels.

Miami Beach follows other major U.S. cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., that have already adopted similar proposals, and the wider adoption of the buttons comes amid the national reckoning about sexual assault.

In October, Chicago passed the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance after a survey found nearly 50 percent of hotel workers experienced harassment. New York hotels also agreed to provide panic buttons for housekeepers and other workers back in 2012 as part of a broader package of protections following accusations that former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted a hotel maid at Sofitel in 2011.

Miami Beach’s proposal will include provisions to protect workers from retaliation from employers as well as protocols for officially reporting sexual harassment after pushing the button, according to the Miami Herald.

Cover image: Faena Forum, left, and Faena House, right, are shown in the Mid-Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)