Instances of sexual assault against housekeepers have been documented across the U.S.

By Jess McHugh
January 26, 2018
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The Las Vegas union that represents tens of thousands of hotel housekeepers is expected to ask for "panic buttons" to protect workers from sexual assault.

“We want safety for all the workers,” Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, told the Associated Press. “We want to have some language in the contract to protect more the people who work inside the hotels. ... We know what’s going on with sexual harassment. No woman should have to go through that.”

The planned demand comes as the U.S. has continued to confront the widespread problem of harassment and assault against women in the workplace. Hospitality workers and other members of the travel industry such as flight attendants are frequent targets.

Statistics for assault against housekeepers are not readily available, but court records and anecdotal evidence point to a significant problem.

“It happens. It’s not something that happens in every hotel every day, but there are enough occurrences in a city like New York or across the country," Bjorn Hanson, a former hotel manager and current professor at NYU School of Professional Studies, Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, told Travel + Leisure.

There is no uniform policy for employee safety across hotels. Some managers advise housekeepers to keep the door open while cleaning while others tell workers to do the opposite for their safety, Hanson says.

Housekeepers have reported incidents of sexual assault across the country. In one incident in Bally's Las Vegas a 19-year-old man was arrested after a 65-year-old housekeeper was punched in the face and sexually assaulted, according to the same AP report.

Las Vegas housekeepers won't be the first to use a type of panic button. Unionized housekeepers in New York City have been using similar devices since 2013, and hotels in Seattle and Chicago began implementing a type of panic button or other alert system at the end of 2017.

“I think we’re in the midst of a societal realization that more can be done and should be done," said Hanson.