The highly publicized recent alleged sexual assault of a maid at the Sofitel hotel by former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has led some hotels to question whether they should take steps to ensure a safer working environment for their employees. Sofitel has decided to begin offering panic buttons to its employees.
Maids work in a potentially dangerous work environment. This attack was in New York near Times Square, but could also easily happen at a luxury hotel in Las Vegas. The maid who accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault said that she was attacked after she entered his room to clean it. A maid at The Pierre also recently claimed that she was sexually assaulted. The Pierre is also now offering panic buttons to its employees. If the hotel employees had had panic buttons they could have called security and more quickly escaped the situation.
According to a recent article by Cynthia Hsu on FindLaw.com, the panic buttons also protect the maids' employers from potential liability. If another attack occurred, Sofitel could be accused of knowing that the work environment for its employees was dangerous but not taking reasonable measures to ensure employee safety.
In this way, the panic buttons could prevent sexual harassment and assaults, and also prevent or lessen potential liability claims by employees for harassment and assaults. Not every employer will decide that the best choice for them is to start offering panic buttons to employees, but for some hotels where assaults have taken place it has been deemed to be the best option.