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Sacramento County Plan Aims To Protect Hotel Workers From Harassment

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Sacramento County is taking steps to protect hotel workers from sexual harassment.

"Sexual harassment and assault is not going to be permitted here, and we're not going to stand for it in Sacramento County," said Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna.

He wants hotels to require their employees to carry personal panic buttons. Similar policies have already passed in Chicago and Seattle.

"We're not interested in reinventing the wheel," Serna said. "We're looking at what has been approved and implemented in other places."

Chicago's ordinance called "Hands Off, Pants On" passed back in October. It requires hotel employers to provide a "panic button to any hotel worker who works alone in rooms."

"Press the button, it alerts on-site security or management, and you have personnel respond immediately," Serna explained.

Unite Here Local 1, Chicago's Hospitality Workers Union, surveyed women in the industry—58 percent of hotel workers and 77 percent of casino workers said they'd been sexually harassed by a guest. Additionally, 49 percent of housekeepers reported having had a guest answer the door naked, expose themselves, or flash them.

"It can't be just an isolated case," Serna said.

"I feel like it's necessary and something positive to protect the workers," said Roxana Tapia, a Union Organizer for Unite Here Local 49 who represents hotel workers in Sacramento.

She told CBS13 she hasn't come across reports of sexual harassment locally with her members.

"But it doesn't mean that in other hotels, it's not happening!" Tapia said.

The city of Seattle passed a similar ordinance, in effect since November 2016.

It requires that "panic buttons must be provided to each hotel employee…at no cost."

"You know, it's going to probably end up being a hotel cost, quite frankly," Serna said.

But it's a cost Serna believes is worth the price of protecting employees in a vulnerable position.

"I look forward to actually having the conversation with our local hoteliers and the chain hoteliers here in Sacramento County," he said.

The ordinance would also require hotels to have a guest sexual harassment policy. Serna plans to push the board to approve the ordinance as soon as late January.

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