As the #metoo movement strengthened in 2018, the State of California worked quickly to enact legislation requiring harassment prevention training, not just for supervisors, but for all employees. At the same time, California attempted to address the unique issues facing hotel workers, particularly housekeeping staff, through legislation that would have required hotel employers to provide their employees with “panic buttons” – portable devices that employees can quickly and easily activate to summon help if they are harassed or threatened. However, that legislation failed to pass.

Taking up this charge, an increasing number of cities and counties within California have enacted local ordinances that impose similar requirements on hotel employers, including “panic buttons.” The County of Sacramento passed such an ordinance in early 2018, but that ordinance did not include hotels within city limits. The City of Sacramento recently enacted its own hotel worker protection ordinance on January 14, 2020.

The cities of Oakland, Long Beach, and Santa Monica have also enacted ordinances requiring hotel employers to provide employees with “panic buttons” and other protections.

Oakland passed its ordinance, known as “Measure Z,” in late 2018.  That ordinance requires hotel employers to provide panic buttons to their employees. Employers are also required to post notices in hotel rooms informing patrons that harassment is prohibited and that employees have panic buttons.  Not satisfied with simply addressing those issues, Oakland’s ordinance also provides for a specific minimum wage, limits the square footage an employee can be required to service and creates an entirely new city department.

Santa Monica’s ordinance, portions of which went into effect January 1, 2020, requires both panic buttons and posted notices. Santa Monica’s statute also included a mandate for training employees regarding safety, public health protection, prevention of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual violence. The training requirements under the Santa Monica ordinance go into effect on January 1, 2021.

Not surprisingly, several of these ordinances have faced legal challenges. Hotel employers and trade associations have sought injunctions. So far, those challenges have encountered very little success. For example, a hotel trade association filed a lawsuit in federal court in late 2019, seeking an injunction barring enforcement of the Santa Monica ordinance. However, on December 18, 2019, the court declined to issue an injunction.

Sacramento’s hotel worker protection ordinance goes into effect on July 14, 2020.

If you have questions on how to comply with local employment ordinances contact a Jackson Lewis attorney.