New Jersey Becomes First State To Require Panic Devices In Hotels

Author:Mr Eric T. Baginski
Profession:Fisher Phillips LLP

New Jersey recently enacted legislation that requires hotels with at least 100 guest rooms to provide panic devices to certain employees. The purpose of the Panic Device Law is to protect hotel employees, often required to clean and cater to rooms on their own, from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other unsafe working conditions. It also intended to empower hotel employees who may have previously felt helpless and reluctant to report inappropriate conduct due to concerns of retaliation from their employers.

While New Jersey is the first state to enact such a law, which will go into effect in January 2020, it follows a growing trend in cities throughout the country - particularly in Chicago, Miami, Sacramento, and Seattle - that have seen the passage of ordinances requiring panic devices for certain hotel employees, among other protections. Other cities, such as Las Vegas and New York City, have seen the introduction of panic devices in the wake of union negotiations. The introduction of panic devices will likely go beyond major metropolitan areas, however, as executives at some of the largest hotels have reportedly revealed their plans to provide panic buttons to their employees across the country by 2020.

If you have operations in New Jersey, you need to immediately familiarize yourself with this new law and take compliance steps. And if you don't have operations in the state or one of the other areas with such a law, you should still be aware of this trend, as it not only presents some concepts for best practices in a hotel setting, but may soon arrive in your own area.

Coverage And Scope

The New Jersey Panic Device Law defines hotel to include not just hotels, but also inns, boarding houses, motels, and other similar establishments that offer and accept payment in exchange for rooms, sleeping accommodations, or board and lodging and that retain rights of access and control over their premises. Regardless of the type of “hotel,” the establishment must also have at least 100 guest rooms in order to be subject to the Panic Device Law. If your business has fewer than 100 guest rooms, compliance with the Panic Device Law is unnecessary.

The Panic Device Law defines an employee as one who performs housekeeping and room service functions on a full or part-time basis at a hotel for, or under the direction of, a hotel employer or any subcontractor of the hotel employer. The law therefore covers and protects hotel employees, contractors...

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