NPR’s Rachel Martin talks with Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who is proposing a bill to protect hotel employees from sexual harassment.


Back in October, Chicago passed a law that requires hotels to provide workers with so-called panic buttons. These are meant to alert security if guests threaten or harass staffers. A survey there found nearly 60 percent of housekeepers and other staff have experienced this, and that caught the attention of Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. She is a commissioner in Miami Beach, Fla., and she recently had her own encounter with sexual misconduct, which, we should warn you, she describes using some explicit language in our conversation.

KRISTEN ROSEN GONZALEZ: And I started to think, wow, if that’s the statistic in Chicago, I can’t even begin to imagine what the statistic is in Miami Beach where we have this ambiance of, you know, partying and decadence and excess. I’m sure it’s pretty high. So I met with our city attorneys, and we’re beginning the process of crafting some type of legislation. And we’ve been looking at the Chicago ordinance, and what it will basically do is give all of the housekeepers across Miami Beach the same rights to a panic button. And that’s one way that the hospitality worker can alert the staff that something is wrong.

MARTIN: And would that be the hotel’s responsibility? I understand you’re just starting to get going with this proposed legislation, but…

GONZALEZ: The hotels would have to provide this service. We don’t know what the service would cost. We’re expecting that once we begin the discussion, the hospitality association will probably come forward and give us some sort of projection as to what it would cost. But I’ve spoken informally to a few of our hotel owners on Miami Beach, and they said that they would be fine with installing this type of system. And there’s a lot of egregious things that happen. You know, a man is staying in a hotel room, and he says I need some extra towels, and then when the housekeeper walks in, they expose themselves. And I know how horrible that can feel because it happened to me recently, and I felt ashamed, embarrassed, disgusted by the entire situation. I can’t imagine this happening to me on a regular basis.

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