Workers in the hospitality industry, including hotel, casino, and restaurant employees, often face harassment or abuse while on the job. In the name of good customer service, they may feel pressured to accept any type of treatment from patrons or their supervisors. No employee should have to put up with aggressive or inappropriate behavior, and local governments are pressuring businesses to do more to protect their employees.
Part of this legislative movement involves wearable technology. Some communities are requiring employers to provide workers with wearable panic buttons. When an employee is in a situation that threatens their safety or wellbeing, they can press the button and alert management to diffuse the situation, rather than try to diffuse it themselves. Philadelphia-based company, ROAR for Good, founded by a Temple graduate and former restaurant worker, created AlwaysOn devices, which set off an alarm and send push notifications to a tablet to alert management that an employee needs assistance. The creator said her experiences with harassment when working in the restaurant industry inspired the devices and informed their design.
Chicago Union Launched Wearable Movement
In 2016, United Here Local 1 launched a campaign called Hands Off Pants On. The union surveyed 500 female employees from local hotels, casinos, and a convention center about their experiences with harassment, and the results were staggering. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace from pressure to go on dates or perform sexual favors to unwelcome physical contact, such as groping or kissing. In addition, only one-third of those who had been harassed reported the incident because they felt that nothing would be done. The unionâ€™s campaign led to the passage of a panic button ordinance in Illinois.
New Jersey was the first state to require panic buttons for hospitality employees, and some hospitality companies are also taking the initiative to provide workers with wearable safety solutions. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) reported that in 2018, major hotel chains, including Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Wyndham, and IHG, pledged to roll out the devices to employees by 2020, as well as expand their safety training and policies to protect employees. Marriottâ€™s time-share brand, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, has already implemented the devices at two of its locations and plans to expand.
Workers in this industry may be more vulnerable to abuse than others. Workers often earn lower wages on an hourly basis, and complaints from customers can result in hours being cut. These types of jobs attract undocumented workers who do not have social security numbers and can be paid under the table. The threat of losing income or being deported can force workers to endure unsafe working conditions; it is up to employers to take the initiative to keep employees safe from sexual harassment while on the job.