Skyline shot of Chicago, Illinois.

Inside Illinois State’s Panic Button Legislation

We recently shared the results of a survey we conducted about the state of panic button adoption and buying motivation. We also released a state-by-state guide and infographic to give those in the hospitality industry a clear idea of what they can expect as the rollout continues and panic buttons become mandatory for employees.

Since the legislation differs in each state, we’re going to highlight a few key regions and share data that might clarify the process. Please note that we are providing this documentation and these articles for informational and educational purposes only and these should not be substituted for legal requirements. If you require clarification on your legal responsibilities, you should seek it from a qualified attorney in your state.

How the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act affects Illinois hospitality businesses:

While Illinois legislation originally suggested July 2020 as the initial rollout for the requirement of panic buttons in all hotels, due to the pandemic the deadline was switched to March 1st, 2021. Despite that deadline having passed, many hotels are still in the process of sourcing affordable panic button solutions to fit their pandemic strained budgets. If your hotel or casino is located in the state of Illinois, here are some top issues you need to know about panic buttons for your staff:

  1. The panic button, safety device or notification device must be provided by the hotel or casino at no cost to the employee.
  2. Hotel and casino employers must “develop, maintain and comply with a written anti-sexual harassment policy to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests.” This document should be written in English, Spanish and the primary languages spoken by the majority of staff. A current copy of the policy also has to be provided to all employees and posted publicly in well-trafficked areas. The complaint process should be easy to understand and follow.
  3. Workers are also protected from retaliation as a result of using their panic buttons since in Illinois it is also illegal “for an employer to retaliate against any employee who reasonably uses a safety device or notification device.”
  4. Illinois has a long history of workplace protection. The new Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act actually builds off of (and references) the Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide additional protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Relay difference:

If you’re ready to set up your own network of panic buttons, look no further than Relay. Our products are compliant, affordable, and efficient. Relay is an easy to deploy, flexible panic button. Best yet, it’s also an elevated communications solution, so you’re combining two critical line items into one (with better value). With Relay, you save money, setup is nonexistent, and our products offer hotel staff a practical, easy solution.

While the Illinois act is less detailed than those of some other states, the underlying commitment to distanced worker safety is clear. By providing staff with panic buttons and other communications devices, they no longer feel as isolated even when working in more remote locations. By creating policies and distributing them widely, staff understands that hotel and casino management take both their safety and concerns extremely seriously. One crucial issue covered in the Illinois panic button legislation is that retaliatory actions are illegal.

Panic button 101 in Illinois State:

  • It’s not only hotel housekeeping staff mentioned. The Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act mentions casinos, casino employers, riverboats, guests and more.
  • Sexual harassment gets specific. Just in case it isn’t clear what constitutes harassments, the bill specifies that “Sexual harassment” means “any harassment or discrimination on the basis of an individual’s actual or perceived sex or gender, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
  • Violations should be reported. Section 5-20 of the act details how employees may bring an action in writing if they feel the hotel or casino is in violation of this act. So, say for instance, hotel management only purchases limited panic buttons or attempts to charge employees for them, this violates the act meant to protect staff.
  • Hotels have 15 calendar days to clear up these violations. Worth noting that not complying with panic button laws can be pricey. Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate violation. Each violation may receive economic damages of up to $350.00. That means that a single violation could rack up $3,250.00 in damages making it a lot cheaper to simply purchase panic buttons and outfit your staff accordingly.

One last thing: Despite being in the headlines often right now, panic button legislation in the state of Illinois has been on the radar for years.

According to the Chicago City website, back in 2017, the city council passed the Hotel Workers Sexual Harassment Ordinance to provide what were then referred to as “new protections for hotel workers” from sexual harassment.

In what now sounds familiar to most and a variation of current panic button laws, the ordinance introduced by Ald. Michelle Harris required hotels “to comply with three major duties: 1) provide panic buttons or similar notification devices to employees who have to enter guest rooms or restrooms alone, 2) develop, maintain, and comply with anti-sexual harassment policies, and 3) provide all employees with a copy of the policy and post it in conspicuous places within the hotel.” In other words, the current laws should already have been in place in Chicago hotels, they now simply became law for the rest of Illinois.

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