Sexual Harassment Is Common, Miami Beach Hotel Workers Say. Would Panic Buttons Help?

By Chabeli Herrera
Miami Herald

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Miami may be the nation’s next city to enact laws aimed at protecting hotel workers from assault or improper advances by hotel guests.

MIAMI

The wave of opposition to sexual harassment, at least in the workplace, is crashing over Miami Beach.

The tourism town, where the majority of Miami-Dade’s estimated 11,500 housekeepers and other hotel workers are employed, may soon be the nation’s next city to enact laws aimed at protecting hotel workers from assault or improper advances by hotel guests.

The move follows a national reckoning against sexual harassment that has exposed alleged offenders including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and morning talk show host Matt Lauer.

The Miami Beach proposal is modeled after mandatory practices in other cities, including Chicago and Seattle, that arm staff with panic buttons in case there is an incident. The portable panic buttons would be connected to hotel security or management, allowing them to act quickly if a worker is harassed or assaulted.

The laws also create a framework for reporting incidents, including allowing workers to contact police, prohibiting hotels from firing workers who speak out and monitoring guests who act improperly toward staff.

Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez wants to see similar rules in Miami Beach. On Wednesday, she will ask the city commission to refer discussion of a potential sexual harassment ordinance to the Neighborhood/Community Affairs Committee, the first step in what could become an ordinance similar to one passed in Chicago in October.

For now, the Miami Beach ordinance would likely require hotels to provide employee panic buttons; develop, maintain and comply with a sexual harassment policy; and create an anti-retaliation provision that protects employees who report incidents of sexual harassment. The ordinance is still in the early stages of development, Rosen Gonzalez said in an interview.

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