Learn about the “Hands Off Pants On” Ordinance

On April 19, 2017, Alderman Michelle Harris (Ward 8) introduced the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance to help protect Chicago hotel workers from sexual harassment and assault. The ordinance was passed by the Chicago City Council on October 11, 2017. Read the full ordinance text here. The ordinance was amended on June 20, 2018. 

What does the ordinance do?

  • Requires hotel employers to provide a “panic button” to hotel workers assigned to clean or restock guest rooms or restrooms alone, including hotel housekeepers. A panic button is a portable emergency contact device that a hotel worker can quickly activate to summon prompt, on-scene assistance by a hotel security officer, manager or other appropriate hotel staff member designated by the hotel employer.
  • Requires hotel employers to develop, maintain and comply with a written anti-sexual harassment policy which shall:
    • Encourage hotel workers to report instances of sexual harassment and assault by a guest
    • Describe the procedure that a hotel worker and hotel employer will follow when a hotel worker reports sexual harassment or assault by a guest
    • Afford hotel workers the right to stop work and leave the immediate area where danger is perceived and be assigned to work on a different floor or work area away from the offending guest.
  • Prohibits hotel employers from retaliating against a hotel worker for reporting sexual harassment or assault by a guest, using the panic button, or exercising any other right afforded by the ordinance

Who are the hotel workers protected by this ordinance?

The majority of hotel workers in Chicago are women of color and immigrants. Of the nearly 500 women who participated in the survey conducted by Local 1, 44% identified as African American and 35% identified as Hispanic. The average age of these women was 44. Chicago’s hotel workers are the backbone of one of the city’s most important economic engines. While the protections in the ordinance extend to all hotel workers, they will also address the increased risk faced by hotel housekeepers. The Chicago ordinance will protect all Chicago hotel workers from sexual harassment and assault – whether a hotel worker belongs to Local 1 or not.

Why do we need an ordinance to protect hotel workers from sexual harassment and assault?

There is an inherent power imbalance between a man who can pay hundreds of dollars for a hotel room and the woman who cleans that room. When a guest sexually harasses or assaults a hotel worker, it happens in the absence of surveillance cameras or witnesses.

Women working in Chicago hotels face a high level of sexual harassment from male guests. Hotel housekeepers often work alone in the intimate space of a guest room where there is no surveillance camera. In smaller hotels, a woman may be the only housekeeper assigned to a floor. Some hotels are so large they span an entire city block, so even with multiple housekeepers on a floor, they are effectively isolated.

How big is the problem of sexual harassment for Chicago hotel workers?

A 2016 survey conducted by UNITE HERE Local 1 of nearly 500 women working in the Chicagoland hospitality industry revealed the frequent and widespread nature of sexual harassment by hotel guests:

  • 49% of housekeepers surveyed have had guest(s) expose themselves, flash them, or answer the door naked. A number of women reported that guests had masturbated in their presence.
  • 58% of all hotel workers surveyed (including housekeepers, room service servers, bartenders and waitresses) had experienced sexual harassment from guests, including incidences of sexual assault.