Hotel Housekeeper Attack Prompts Security Scrutiny

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The lurid news story du jour is the allegation of sexual assault of a New York City hotel housekeeper by former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The incident and subsequent media furor has led to calls for stepped-up measures to ensure the safety of all hotel personnel, housekeepers in particular. While some of the proposals on the table are well intentioned and thoughtful, some are way off base and more than likely simple bids for publicity.

For example, a New York State assemblyman says he'll introduce legislation requiring employees who “regularly enter hotel or motel rooms” to wear panic-alert alarms that will notify hotel security in case of trouble. His idea may be well meaning, but it is off the mark. The hotel industry is entirely capable of protecting its employees without the assistance of additional (and costly) government intervention.

To be sure, no system—even the panic alarms proposed by the legislator—is entirely foolproof and guarantees employees won't be flashed, groped, assaulted, robbed or raped when they open a hotel door to clean it or to address a maintenance issue. But most lodging operators have procedures and systems in place to protect their employees as reasonably possible. Housekeepers are instructed to prop open guestroom doors, they typically work in teams on each floor, and many of them carry mobile telecommunications devices.

Bottom line: The government should keep their nose out of this situation and, most importantly, hotels should double check their procedures and training materials to make sure employees take all necessary precautions to prevent another incident like the one in New York City.

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