Hotel employees in the Golden Isles will be armed with panic buttons at work if a group of state legislators get their way.
Senate Bill 389, sponsored by state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, and four other Democrats in the upper chamber, would require hotels and others in the lodging industry statewide to provide portable panic buttons to employees.
Dubbed the Panic Button Bill, the purpose of the legislation is to make the warning devices available to guest service workers as a means to protect themselves from sexual harassment and assault.
The bill was read Jan 27 and has been referred to the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee for consideration.
It would affect hundreds of hotel employees in Glynn County if passed.
Scott McQuade, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau, says the bill is not detailed enough to make a sound judgment on the proposed law.
“Our statewide and local industry has not taken a position on this issue,” he said.
TJ Filipowicz, vice president of external affairs with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta, says it is the same with the chamber.
However, Filipowicz noted, “Historically, we are opposed to unfunded government mandates placed on businesses.”
Some area hotels may already be handing out wearable panic buttons to employees. In 2018, the American Hotel and Lodging Association and major national hotel chains decided panic buttons were a worthwhile investment in employee safety. The chains include Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham, all with a presence in the Golden Isles.
The goal was to furnish employees with the devices by 2020.
The cost of panic buttons and the service varies. Alarms connected to phones or to computers go for anywhere between $10 and $25 per button per month.
Buttons that trigger a siren or strobe can cost between $30 and $100 apiece.
In some states and cities, the issuance of panic buttons to lodging industry staff is already mandatory.
New Jersey was first to pass the requirement. Others include Miami, Fla., Washington state, Illinois and Sacramento, Calif.