New Jersey’s Democratic governor has signed a bill that will require hotels in the state to provide staff with panic buttons.

Phil Murphy said he was “proud” to sign the legislation that will “give hotel workers security and the ability to immediately call for help should they need it.”

The law, which comes into effect in January and applies to hotels with 100 or more rooms, follows an incident in 2018 when a hotel cleaner at Bally’s casino in Atlantic City was pushed into a room and sexually assaulted.

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“The housekeepers were enraged after that,” said Ben Albert, an official with Local 54 of the Unite-Here labour union, whose members work predominantly in the hospitality industry.

A group of hotel workers were present at the signing and many of them praised the decision in interviews with the Associated Press.

Daksha Parikh, a housekeeper at the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City, described the panic button as a “layer of protection” for hotel workers.

“Sometimes it’s a long floor of rooms and you may be the only one working there,” she said. “Sometimes [guests] don’t have any clothes on when you knock on the door and say, ‘Housekeeping,’ or they’re playing dirty videos on their laptop.”

Another housekeeper, Iris Sanchez, who works at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, added: “Today the lawmakers in New Jersey stood up with my co-workers and I to say no more to guests exposing themselves to us, soliciting us for sex, and allowing us to be unsafe as we open the door to a guest room, with no idea what is waiting for us behind it.

“It’s great knowing I’ll be able to come home safe at the end of my shift. I can do my job without being worried.”

The legislation follows a report stating that sexual harassment was "rampant" in the hospitality industry, with nine in 10 workers reporting one or more incidents in their working lives.

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