CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) – A new city ordinance passed Oct. 11 by Chicago City Council will equip hotel workers with portable emergency contact devices in an effort to eliminate instances of sexual harassment or assault.

Recent surveys have shown that women who work in the hospitality industry are often the target of sexual harassment and/or assault, according to an attorney.

“The ordinance was prompted by surveys of hotel and casino workers that found that women working in the hospitality industry experience sexual  harassment and incidents of sexual assault by guests," Sheppard Mullin attorney Shawn Fabian told Legal Newsline.

"I believe certain hotels in Washington, D.C., and New York City have also implemented a panic button/notification device system but pursuant to collective bargaining negotiations, not as legislative mandates."

The ordinance states that hotel employees who work in guest rooms or restrooms alone will be provided with the portable emergency contact devices at no cost to the employee.

The ordinance will also require hotels to develop and implement written sexual harassment policies and make sure employees are given a copy. 

Additionally, as part of the new policy, employers will be required to encourage employees to report instances of sexual harassment or assault after leaving the area where it occurred, and allow employees to be reassigned to a different work station. 

Hotels that violate the ordinance may be fined $250 to $500 for each occurrence.

“We are communicating with hotel clients to review the measures called for in the ordinance,” Larry Eppley, co-leader of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP’s hospitality industry team, told Legal Newsline.  

“We are also working with clients to review and update, where necessary, their harassment policies based on the ordinance’s requirements,” Fabian said.

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