New York City hotels to give panic buttons to maids

NEW YORK Wed Feb 8, 2012 12:07pm EST

NEW YORK Feb 8 (Reuters) - Hotels in New York City have agreed to give housekeepers personal panic buttons in the wake of a hotel maid's charge she was sexually assaulted by former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The panic buttons were among several items included in a contract proposal presented on Tuesday to the city's hotel union that was expected to win approval early next week.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested in May for allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid cleaning his suite at the luxury Sofitel. Strauss-Kahn resigned as director of the International Monetary Fund and authorities eventually dropped the charges against him, citing doubts about his accuser's credibility.

After Strauss-Kahn's arrest, the Sofitel and the Pierre, another high-end hotel in midtown Manhattan, both decided to give panic buttons, which can be used to summon help when they feel endangered, to maids. Now housekeepers at all of the biggest hotels in the city will be equipped with the devices.

"It's unfortunate but there are instances when guests behave inappropriately," said John Turchiano, spokesman for the New York Hotel Trades Council, the union representing more than 30,000 hotel workers in the area. "This would be a really good way to cut down on that and give our members strong protections."

Employers would be required to give panic buttons to any hotel worker entering an occupied guest room, according to the contract proposal.

The Hotel Association of New York approved the devices last week.

"They can quickly and easily activate these devices to effectively summon prompt assistance to their locations," said association spokeswoman Lisa Linden.

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who introduced a bill in the state legislature last year calling for panic buttons, applauded their inclusion in the proposed contract.

"It's an important but simple step to protect housekeepers from assault," Lancman said. (Editing by Paul Thomasch and Bill Trott)