Over the past year, sexual harassment has been in the national and local headlines, and top of mind for many business owners. New Jersey elected officials are taking notice. New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly voted unanimously to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for harassment, to mandate training for lawmakers and their staff, and to improve the current complaint process.
The New Jersey Legislature has taken a step forward to combat the national problem of workplace harassment, and we commend their efforts and share their commitment. The hotel industry has been committed to addressing employee and guest safety for decades, and we continue to build on our further efforts with meaningful action.
Hotels are at the center of communities across the state — creating long-term careers and opportunities for upward mobility, spurring economic growth, investing in communities and serving America’s travelers. From its $10 billion in statewide annual salaries for its more than 180,000 employees, to its gross domestic product of more than $16 billion, the hotel industry’s impact on New Jersey’s financial well-being is undeniable.
With this great economic opportunity comes an even greater responsibility to protect all hotel workers and guests, fostering an environment that says that there is no compromise on safety and security. Not only does our industry want to solve this critically important issue, but we also want to provide best practices and technology that utilizes innovative solutions that make a difference.
That’s why in early September, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), a national trade organization, partnered with leading hotel brands to set a new standard for other industries to follow on policies to prevent sexual harassment and assault. AHLA’s 5-Star Promise outlines a commitment to further foster a safe environment for all hotel workers.
The five key components of the 5-Star Promise include: 1) creating a “people-first” culture 2) implementing mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies 3) rolling out new training and educational programs 4) distributing employee safety devices to hotel employees nationwide by 2020 and 5) partnering with outside groups to obtain expert guidance and vital partnerships as the industry works to create a workplace free of sexual harassment and assault.
While all hotels share a commitment to the safety and security of their employees, the hotel industry is extremely diverse and faces many unique challenges that won’t allow for a one size fits all approach. For example, technology that might work in a grand resort in Atlantic City may be different than for a quaint bed and breakfast in Cape May. As a result, AHLA’s new safety measures were created to be applicable to any and all hospitality establishments in New Jersey and across the country, ensuring increased safety measures for hotel employees.
While the industry has already taken these proactive measures, we are always willing to work with safety experts and members of the Legislature who are passionate about this important issue. That’s why we are proud to work with Assemblyman John Armato and the other sponsors of Assembly Bill 4439 to discuss meaningful regulations that build on hotel industry’s commitment to employee and guest safety.
As an industry, we will continue our work, day in and day out, with a focus on ensuring America’s hotels are secure places for all those who work and visit them. As the New Jersey Legislature considers Assembly Bill 4439, we hope that they will continue to work with our industry to ensure commonsense policies that empower employees and provide a safe working environment.
Chip Rogers, of Washington, D.C., is president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Joseph Simonetta, of Trenton, is executive director of the New Jersey Hotel and Lodging Association.