Harvey Weinstein inspired new law for hotel housekeepers in Chicago

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Hotel housekeepers in Chicago are done with sexual harassment and indecent exposures by guests.

Inspired by the scandal surrounding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, they are taking matters into their own hands – highlighting a new law that requires panic buttons for hotel employees.

Last March, Surveillance video shows a registered sex offender sexually assaulting a female hotel employee in Omaha. As he groped her, she managed to remove his ski mask. He was later arrested and pleaded guilty. The victim was working alone after midnight. Working alone in large hotels – hospitality workers in Chicago say they face similar dangers.

“When they open up the door, that’s when they all expose themself. And no one wants to be treated that way,” said hotel housekeeper Claudia.

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She did not want her last name revealed — Claudia has worked in a downtown hotel for 28 years. She joined other housekeepers at city hall for a celebration Tuesday, sharing a cake displaying a photo of Harvey Weinstein. A new city ordinance requires that hotel housekeepers be provided with panic buttons to use when they’re being sexually harassed, or face other dangers.

“So they’ll be able to push a button if they feel threatened, and that’s real important when you work by yourself, and you have to deal with some of the issues that society has kind of swept up under the rug,” said Alderman Michelle Harris.

Advocates of the new law point to a 2016 survey of almost 500 housekeepers – where more than half claimed they had been sexually harassed by guests.

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“I think it could be more than that. A lot of people who experience sexual harassment can’t speak out, so I think it could be more,” said hotel housekeeper Latonia.

RF Technologies of Brookfield Wisconsin say it’s producing panic buttons for numerous hotels in Chicago. A company representative says they’ve been used successfully in New York and Washington D.C., but Chicago’s the first city to require them by law.

“We don’t’ want to be afraid when we come to work,” Claudia said.

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