In 2016 UNITE HERE Local 1, a Chicago hospitality workers union, carried out a study that looked at the safety of local hotel and casino workers. Based on their findings the state of Illinois introduced the ‘Hotel and Casino Safety Act (S.B. 75)’. This legislation requires all hospitality based lone workers to be issued with a panic button.
Study into hotel and casino lone workers
To better understand the experiences of women working in Chicagoland hotels and casinos, UNITE HERE Local 1 developed a program to survey nearly 500 women.
The union surveyed 487 women at thirteen Chicagoland hotels, three casinos and one convention centre. At the time of the survey, all the women were hospitality employees, working as housekeepers, bartenders, waitresses and cocktail servers, among other job classifications ¹.
The study revealed that the women who work in Chicagoland hotels and casinos face a high level of sexual harassment, mainly from male guests: 58% of hotel workers and 77% of casino workers surveyed have been sexually harassed by a guest ².
96% of housekeepers surveyed said they would feel safer carrying out their duties if they were equipped with a panic button ³.
New hotel lone worker legislation in Chicago
As a result of the study, Chicago passed an ordinance, Chicago Municipal Code 4-6-180(e), effective from July 1st 2018, requiring hotels to establish and provide their employees with their sexual harassment policy and provide panic buttons to certain employees ⁴.
Under the new legislation, anyone who holds a hotel licence under Section 4-6- 180 of the Municipal Code of Chicago is required under Section 4-6-180(e) of the Code to provide panic buttons to certain hotel employees (“covered employees”) ⁵.
Chicago legislators define a ‘covered employee’ as “employees who are assigned to clean or to inventory, inspect or restock supplies in a guest room or restroom in circumstances in which no other employee is present in such room.” ⁶
Hotel employers are responsible for providing a working panic button to their covered employees.
What is a lone worker panic button?
A panic button is a portable emergency contact device that the covered employee carries on his or her person, and that can be quickly and easily activated by the employee, to summon to the employee’s precise location in the hotel, using GPS coordinates, prompt assistance by a hotel security officer, manager or designated staff member ⁷.
When activated, the panic button must effectively summon to the employee’s precise location prompt, on-scene assistance from a hotel security officer, security guard, manager or other appropriate person designated by the hotel employer ⁸.
In order for a panic button to pass muster under the Ordinance, The Chicago government have come up with a list of necessary attributes or capabilities:
• The panic button must be portable, and easily carried and activated by the employee;
• The panic button must summon prompt assistance from appropriate persons designated by the hotel employer when activated;
• The panic button must not require continued activation by the employee to sustain the alert (e.g. simple whistles, walkie-talkies, mugger buttons or other non-GPS supported notification devices are not panic buttons within the meaning of Chicago’s Ordinance);
• The panic button must have GPS capabilities and be able to identify the exact location of the employee in real time ⁹.
State-wide lone worker legislation
Hot on the heels of the Chicago Housekeeping ordinance, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into Illinois state law the ‘Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act’ (S.B. 75) on August the 9th 2019.
Article 5, Section 5-10, the Hotels and casinos; safety devices; anti-sexual harassment policy states that, ‘Each hotel and casino shall equip an employee who is assigned to work in a guest room, restroom, or casino floor, under circumstances where no other employee is present in the room or area, with a safety device or notification device. The employee may use the safety device or notification device to summon help if the employee reasonably believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other emergency is occurring in the employee’s presence. The safety device or notification device shall be provided by the hotel or casino at no cost to the employee.’ ¹⁰
The new law came into effect on July 1 st, 2020. The state of Illinois is among a wave of municipalities to propose and adopt legislation that requires hotels to expand security measures to employees, especially those who work alone.
How Ok Alone provides a Panic Button Solution
There are many panic buttons and lone worker solutions available for hotel and casino owners to purchase in order to keep their lone workers safe. One such solution is Ok Alone, the lone worker safety solution from Trusty Ox Systems.
Through the app, a supervisor or security personnel, will be notified if a worker requests immediate assistance, keeping in line with the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act (S.B. 75).
Ok Alone’s lone worker safety app runs on a worker’s smart phone and allows workers to check in at regular intervals or request help if they need it. The ‘Help Button’ sends an alert to their supervisor that they need immediate assistance and need to be contacted. This button can be pushed manually or triggered using voice commands. The system has GPS capabilities that can locate a worker if they activate the ‘help’ alert.
What features does Ok Alone have to keep lone workers safe?
Ok Alone also has features that allow lone workers to contact their supervisors directly. Workers have the option of sending a written or voice message directly to the person monitoring their safety.
Workers are able to change the frequency of their check ins with the ‘high-risk’ feature. If a worker enters an area where they feel vulnerable, such as a room at the far end of an empty corridor, they can reduce the check in time to as little as 10 minutes. After the time has passed with no alerts, the check in frequency will revert to the original count down duration.
The Ok Alone smartphone app works in conjunction with a website and dashboard that can be used on a pc, laptop, tablet or another smartphone. The online dashboard will display a map supplying the monitor with the workers last known location if an alert is triggered. This will allow help to be sent to the correct location at a moment’s notice.
1, 2, 3 – HANDS OFF PANTS ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN CHICAGO’S HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY JULY 2016, A report by UNITE HERE Local 1, https://www.handsoffpantson.org/wp-content/uploads/HandsOffReportWeb.pdf