Queens Lawmaker Proposes "Panic Button" for Hotel Housekeepers

Monday, May 23, 2011  |  Updated 10:43 AM EDT
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A New York assemblyman says he wants the state to require hotels to provide their housekeepers with an emergency "panic button" that would help protect them from sexual assaults on the job.

Assemblyman Rory Lancman, a Democrat from Queens, said he will introduce the bill Monday. The move comes a week after former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged with sexually assaulting a Manhattan hotel maid.

"We send hotel workers, housekeepers into rooms by themselves without any other staff, without any other security," Lancman said at a news conference Sunday outside the Sofitel Hotel, the site of Strauss-Kahn's alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid last week.

Lancman said attacks on hotel housekeepers are common, and though the incidents "may not be as brutal or as sensational" as the allegations in the Strauss-Kahn case, housekeepers are often inappropriately groped or propositioned.

Lancman referred to a New York Times article on Saturday highlighting the sexual affronts hotel housekeepers have long had to face.

The proposed legislation calls for hotels to provide a small device for housekeepers that would, at the touch of a button, trigger an audible alarm or alert hotel security.

He estimated a cost of $20 to $40 per device, though he said it would cost "significantly less" for hotels to buy in bulk.

The Associated Press said a review of court documents and news reports found at least 10 other hotel housekeepers who say they've been attacked in the U.S. in the last three years.

Labor groups said other cases are kept quiet because the victims are illegal immigrants or because hotels are wary of scaring off guests.

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