Hotel workers in New York to get panic button

Story highlights

  • Sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn were dropped
  • The buttons will allow workers to summon help immediately in emergencies
  • The provision was part of a new contract for hotel workers
Nearly a year after a New York City hotel housekeeper claimed she was sexually assaulted by a prominent French politician, hotel workers who enter guest rooms will be provided with portable panic buttons.
The new policy, a provision to a seven-year contract proposed by the New York Hotel Trades Council, will allow employees who enter guest rooms -- from mini-bar attendants to a room service waiters or waitresses -- to "summon help immediately in case of an emergency," according to hotel union spokesman John Turchiano.
The move comes on the heels of a high-profile scandal involving former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was accused of sexually assaulting maid Nafissatou Diallo in May. Manhattan prosecutors dropped the charges against Strauss-Kahn in August amid questions about his accuser's credibility.
Hotels will be given a year to find a system that works best for their employees after the new contract goes into effect July 1, Turchiano said. The vote on the new contract will take place Monday.
"This was not difficult to negotiate," Turchiano told CNN. "Hotels care as much about the safety and well-being of the employees just like the union does."
Two luxury hotels in Manhattan, The Pierre hotel and Sofitel -- where Diallo worked -- began to provide maids with portable panic buttons in June, one month after the alleged assault. The panic buttons were modeled after medical alert buttons for the elderly, allowing housekeeping staff to quickly alert hotel security, Turchiano said at the time.
Former Egyptian bank executive Abdel Salam Omar was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a housekeeper at The Pierre last year. He later pled guilty to sexual abuse and was sentenced to community service.
Turchiano said that while the Strauss-Kahn scandal highlighted the problem, there has been discussion for some time about making sure hotel employees are equipped with panic buttons.
"There have been examples over the years of inappropriate behavior by hotel guests," he said. "Does it happen a lot? No. Is it scary when it happens? Yes."
Also included in the contract is a historical and significant wage increase of 29% over seven years and expanded medical coverage to cover employees' families.