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Chicago Passes Ordinance Requiring Hotels to Provide “Panic Buttons” To Certain Employees

On October 11, 2017, the Chicago City Council passed the Hotel Workers Sexual Harassment Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), which requires Chicago hotels to develop anti-sexual harassment policies and provide employees who work alone in hotel rooms with panic buttons. Employers who fail to comply with these requirements or retaliate against employees for invoking the Ordinance’s protections may be subject to fines and/or the suspension or revocation of their hotel license.

Panic Buttons

By July 1, 2018, Chicago hotels must equip employees who work alone in guest rooms or restrooms with a “panic button” or notification device that can be used to summon help if the employee reasonably believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault or other emergency is occurring. These devices must be provided at no cost to the employee.

Sexual Harassment Policy

The Ordinance also requires Chicago hotels to develop and maintain a written sexual-harassment policy to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests. The policy must:  (a) encourage employees to report instances of alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests; (b) describe the procedures that the employee and employer must follow in such cases; (c) instruct the employee to cease work and leave the immediate area where danger is perceived until hotel security personnel or the police department arrive to provide assistance; (d) offer temporary work assignments to the complaining employee during the duration of the offending guest’s stay at the hotel, which may include assigning the employee to work on a different floor or at a different station or work area away from the offending guest; (e) provide the employee with necessary paid time off to sign a complaint with police department and testify as a witness at any legal proceeding that may ensure as a result of such complaint; (f) inform the employee that the Illinois Human Rights Act, Chicago Human Rights Ordinance and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provide additional protections against sexual harassment in the workplace; and (h) inform the employee of the Ordinance’s prohibition on retaliation.

In addition, employers must provide employees with a copy of the hotel’s anti-sexual harassment policy in English, Spanish and Polish and post the policy in all such languages in conspicuous places in areas of the hotel, such as supply rooms or employee lunch rooms.

Retaliation Prohibited

The Ordinance prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for: (i) reasonably using a panic button or notification device; (ii) availing himself or herself to the protections provided by the employer’s sexual harassment policy; or (iii) disclosing, reporting, or testifying about any violation or the Ordinance.


Any employer who violates the Ordinance will be subject to a fine of between $250 and $500 for each offense, and each day that a violation continues will constitute a separate and distinct offense. In addition, an employer who is deemed to have two or more violations of the Ordinance’s prohibition on retaliation within any 12-month period may have its hotel license suspended or revoked.

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 302


About this Author

Steven J Pearlman, Labor Employment Law Firm, Proskauer Law firm

Steven Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group, resident in the Chicago office. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination and harassment, wage-and-hour laws and breaches of restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). He has successfully tried cases to verdict before judges and juries in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S....

Edward C. Young, Proskauer Rose, Harassment Lawyer, Labor Rights Attorney

Edward C. Young is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. He represents companies nationwide in a broad range of employment issues, including discrimination, retaliation and harassment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, as well as other federal and state employment statutes and various common law torts. In addition, Eddie represents employers in trade secret matters and challenges to the independent contractor status of workers.

Prior to attending law school, Eddie earned his master’s degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from Loyola University while working for more than three years in the corporate human resources department of a national professional services firm. Eddie also served as a Coles Fellow with the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Eddie is a co-author of “Discrimination Law Basics,” which was presented at the Practicing Law Institute’s Understanding Employment Law Conference in 2014.