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Luxury New York hotels to give 'panic buttons' to maids

By Chris Boyette, CNN
Former Egyptian bank executive Abdel Salam Omar was charged with sexually abusing a housekeeper at the Pierre hotel.
Former Egyptian bank executive Abdel Salam Omar was charged with sexually abusing a housekeeper at the Pierre hotel.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pierre and Sofitel hotels will provide maids with "panic buttons"
  • The devices will be modeled after medical alert buttons for the elderly
  • The move comes on the heels of high-profile sexual assault scandals
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New York (CNN) -- Two luxury hotels in Manhattan will provide maids with portable emergency communications devices -- equipped with "panic buttons" -- in the wake of a pair of high-profile sexual assault cases in New York, according to a hotel union spokesman.

The Pierre and the Sofitel hotels will hand out the devices, modeled after medical alert buttons for the elderly, allowing housekeeping staff to quickly alert hotel security, said John Turchiano, a spokesman for New York's Hotel & Motel Trades Council.

The move comes on the heels of a recent scandal involving former Egyptian bank executive Abdel Salam Omar, who was arrested Sunday and charged with sexually abusing a housekeeper at the Pierre hotel.

Nora Walsh, a spokeswoman for the Pierre, said the hotel is investigating an apparent delay in communications with authorities.

The alleged incident took place at the hotel May 29, two weeks and a day after Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, was accused of sexually assaulting and trying to rape a housekeeping employee at another swank New York hotel, the Sofitel.

Turchiano said both hotels have not determined what type of device they plan to implement but noted that the group plans to petition for them to be incorporated across all New York hotels during the next round of contract negotiations.

"It's not just incidents like these, but there are other incidents when guests act inappropriately," said Turchiano, who called for extra training to accompany use of the device.

Walsh said the Pierre hotel is providing "full cooperation" with the initiative.

"We have 70 room attendants, and we're committed to providing a safe and secure work environment where they know in case of emergency we are able to take care of them," she said. "We have a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior from guests."

Sofitel spokeswoman Stacy Royal echoed Walsh's sentiments.

"The security of our guests and employees continues to be of our utmost priority."

It is not clear when the new devices will be implemented.

 
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