June 11 (UPI) -- New Jersey became the first of the United States Tuesday to pass a law requiring hotels provide "panic buttons" that employees can activate in case of an emergency.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that mandates the buttons for all New Jersey hotels with more than 100 guest rooms. Lodging employees are often subjected to potentially dangerous threats, like sexual assault and harassment. A New York man was arrested at Bally's Atlantic City Hotel and Casino last year after police say he assaulted a 51-year-old woman who worked there.
"Take Atlantic City, Fourth of July weekend, 70 degrees, people are out on the beach," Assemblyman John Armato, who sponsored the bill, told WHYY radio. "These hotels are very big. And if you're at the furthest end of the hallway and something happens, you've got a problem."
Murphy said the law will give a lifeline to hotel housekeepers and other staff at New Jersey tourist destinations, like Atlantic City.
"We must protect the safety of workers in the hospitality industry," he said in a statement Tuesday. "This new law will ensure that hotel employees performing their duties will have the means to summon immediate assistance if they are in danger."
The new law answers calls from hotel workers unions who wanted something to ensure peace of mind and security.
"Their line of work combines anonymity with seclusion and the risk of harassment and assault is a reality hotel workers face every day," State Sen. Linda Greenstein said. "This law will give these employees a sense of safety most of us take for granted in our places of work and will empower them to protect themselves when in danger."
The bill had passed both chambers unanimously.