Don’t Panic! We Have A Button For You!

Well, another panic button law was just passed – this time in New Jersey.

The first state to pass such a law!

Just a few weeks ago I posted about a union local in Seattle representing 5,000 hotel and hospitality workers, which reacted to guests sexually harassing room cleaning and room service staff and pushed for and got enacted a new law which requires, among other things, that hotels with 60 or more rooms must issue “panic buttons” to employees who work alone in guest rooms.

Interesting idea – and maybe the answer to guests taking advantage of these isolated and vulnerable employees. 

Now comes a  similar new NJ law — which passed unanimously in the state legislature and was signed by the Governor, and which will take effect at the beginning of 2020.

It requires hotels with 100 or more guest rooms to provide housekeepers and room service employees with panic buttons. It also provides a number of other things, such as requiring such hotels to keep records of guests about whom allegations of inappropriate conduct have been made.

Don’t forget: actionable sexual harassment has less to do with who the perpetrator and everything to do with whether a hostile workplace has been created.

Said the Guv: “We must protect the safety of workers in the hospitality industry. This new law will ensure that hotel employees performing their duties will have the means to summon immediate assistance if they are in danger.”

Similar laws or ordinances have since passed throughout the US: Chicago, Sacramento, Long Beach, CA and Miami Beach. And panic buttons have also been the subject of collective bargaining agreements.


This is a step in the right direction towards protecting these quintessentially vulnerable workers who are isolated and powerless.

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]