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Chicago Adopts ‘Hands Off Pants On’ Law to Protect Hotel Workers from Sexual Harassment, Assault

By Jody Kahn Mason and Brenna R. McLean
  • October 30, 2017

To provide hospitality workers greater protections against sexual harassment and assault, the Chicago City Council passed the “Hands Off Pants On” Ordinance on October 11, 2017. The Ordinance requires all hotels in the City to adopt a panic button system and an anti-sexual harassment policy. The Ordinance was passed after months of lobbying efforts by local hospitality workers.

Panic Button

The Ordinance (revising Section 4-6-180 of the Chicago Municipal Code) requires hotels in Chicago to equip all employees who work alone in guest rooms or restrooms with a “panic button” or other notification device. The device must be designed to alert and summon hotel security or management for help in the event the employee reasonably believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other emergency is occurring in the employee’s presence.

These portable panic buttons or other notification devices must be provided at no cost to covered employees by July 1, 2018.

The Ordinance states that the “panic button” must be a “portable emergency contact device” which allows employees to quickly and easily summon prompt assistance from a hotel security officer, manager, or other appropriate hotel staff member to the employee’s location.

As part of implementing these new “panic button” systems, employers should be prepared to provide training to employees regarding how to use the devices and respond to alerts.

Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy

The “Hands Off Pants On” Ordinance also requires that all Chicago hotels develop, maintain, and comply with a written anti-sexual harassment policy designed to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by hotel guests.

The policy must:

  1. Encourage employees to immediately report instances of alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests;
  2. Describe the procedures that the employee and the hotel will follow in response to such reports;
  3. Instruct employees to stop working and immediately leave the area of the perceived danger until hotel security or the police arrive to provide assistance;
  4. Offer temporary work assignments to the complaining employee for the duration of the offending guest’s stay at the hotel;
  5. Provide employees with paid time off to file any appropriate police reports or testify as a witness in any legal proceedings arising from the incident;
  6. Inform employees that the Illinois Human Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance provide additional protections against sexual harassment in the workplace; and
  7. Inform employees that they will not be retaliated against for reasonably using a panic button or notification device.

Chicago hotels must comply with the Ordinance’s policy requirement by January 7, 2018.

Anti-Retaliation; Enforcement

It is unlawful for hotels to retaliate against employees for reasonably using a panic button or notification device, or otherwise disclosing, reporting, or testifying about any violation of the Ordinance. Employees can file complaints alleging violations of the Ordinance with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

Hotels found to have committed two or more violations of the Ordinance in any 12-month period are subject to having their license suspended or revoked by the City.

Additionally, hotels may face between $250 and $500 in daily fines for each violation of the Ordinance.

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Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to answer inquiries regarding this new law and assist employers in achieving compliance with its requirements.

©2017 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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