SACRAMENTO -- The city of Sacramento is working to protect its hotel workers from sexual harassment and abuse.
A proposal would require that all hotel staff carry an emergency button that alerts coworkers when they’re experiencing a dangerous situation.
It was only a few weeks after Guadalupe Gutierrez started her new job as a hotel maid when she suffered a bad back injury cleaning a hotel bathroom. To make things worse, she was the only person on her floor and couldn’t get up.
“It was horrible. I did panic for a while, I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to get out of here,’” she told FOX40.
It’s a job that keeps her isolated. Gutierrez said she knows coworkers who have been sexually harassed or have had guests corner maids in locked hotel rooms and expose themselves.
“To go through all this and knowing that they are just there to try to take advantage, it is hard,” Gutierrez said.
Sacramento is now working to make every hotel in the city carry emergency buttons for employees. They can press the buttons and alert staff in a case of harassment or, like Gutierrez, if they get hurt.
“If I would’ve had the button, I would’ve been able to press it and had somebody help me,” Gutierrez said.
“As we become a tourist destination because of our rivers and all the activities and amenities, we want to make sure our workers aren’t being victims to scrupulous guests that come in here and take advantage of them,” said Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra.
Guerra said the county outside the city already made the rule mandatory. He said it’s about time the city follows suit.
“Frankly, if a hotel doesn’t want to come in here because they don’t want to protect their workers, I don’t want them in this city,” Guerra said.
“We are attracting more visitors, so we want to ensure that as we're growing as a city, we want to keep our workers protected as well,” said Nuri Rubio with Unite Here Local 49.
Rubio works with the service employees union in Sacramento, one of the driving forces behind the protection. She said it’s a necessary safeguard for a workforce often taken for granted.
“These housekeepers are the ones sustaining the hotels, giving the guests a pleasurable experience,” Rubio said.
It’s a simple solution to a dangerous problem.
“The first thing I did was, ‘Really, why didn’t we think about this before?’” Gutierrez said.
Sacramento has around 60 hotels where the emergency button would become mandatory. If it passes the full city council in a few weeks, Sacramento will be the only city in the U.S., outside of New York City, to implement it.