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Washington Hospitality Association supports panic buttons for workers’ protection

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The safety and security of employees is a top priority for the hospitality industry, which is why the Washington Hospitality Association testified in enthusiastic support of the subject of Senate Bill 5258, a bill created to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault of certain isolated workers and providing panic buttons.

“We are just as passionate about our team members as we are any other part of our business, and their health and safety is essential,” said Anthony Anton, Washington Hospitality Association president and CEO. “How do we take employee protection to the next level? By providing training, adopting policies and procedures and supporting the use of safety devices.”

Senate Bill 5258 would require that every hospitality employer: adopt a sexual harassment policy, provide mandatory sexual harassment prevention training to all employees, provide a list of resources employees may use and provide a panic button to each isolated worker.

“I am thrilled that the Washington Hospitality Association has agreed to support my bill to protect isolated workers from sexual harassment or assault,” said the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines. “A significant portion of the hospitality industry has taken real leadership to provide safety devices for individual employees.”

If passed during the 2019 Legislative Session, Washington state would lead the nation with this type of bill. Similar measures singling out hotel workers and providing them with safety devices and increased training have passed in local jurisdictions across the United States, however, Washington would be one of the first states with the expanded protections for other types of employees who work independently.

The increased awareness of employee safety aligns with the 5-Star Promise, a pledge led by the American Hotel & Lodging Association and 17 large, national hotel brands. The 5-Star Promise is a pledge to hotel employees across the U.S. to expand implementation of employee safety devices by 2020 and a commitment to enhanced policies, trainings and resources that increase hotel safety, including the prevention and response to sexual harassment and assault.

As longstanding supporters of providing safety devices to hotel employees, the Seattle Hotel Association also testified alongside the Washington Hospitality Association.

“The Seattle Hotel Association supports the use of panic buttons,” said Shannon Sheron, Managing Director, Hotel Sorrento and president of the Seattle Hotel Association. “Many of our hotels have had them in place for years and will continue to do so, as part of our vigorous commitment to employee safety. We are proud to support this bill.”
Senate Bill 5258 was heard in the Senate Labor & Commerce committee on Monday and will need to clear additional legislative hurdles before becoming law.

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