Monica interviews Parminder about New Jersey Safety Button Legislation. Parminder details the nuances of the legislation, how it differs from others and best practices to implement a solution before the deadline. Parminder is speaking on years of experience helping hotels comply with city and state laws and shares the true cost of non-compliance. It's not just fines that are in store if you're not prepared.
Welcome to another episode of try and cast track and protect podcast . We'll , we'll talk about all things hot and hospitality and technology. I'm Monica Newsome and I'll be your host.Speaker 2:
[inaudible] .Speaker 1:
This is the first episode in our CT button series where we're detailing state and city legislation. There have been city ordinances, state laws, union requirements and each one is different. So here with me today is our in house expert on safety button legislation, track and protects CEO Parmender backdrop. Welcome to the show. How are you? I'm good. How are you? I'm good. Thank you for joining us. Thanks for having me. So today we'll be talking about New Jersey state safety button legislation. If you're not in New Jersey, stay tuned with us because we'll also cover the cost of noncompliance and serious consequences that come with skipping out on safety buttons in any jurisdiction. So perimeter and your experiment experience. Why do you think hotels are hesitant to comply or in some cases totally opting out? That is, that's really an interesting question because you're right. In some cases, hotels are opting out. Um, for one, they're looking to the legislation in their area and they're looking at it that this, the fines aren't steep enough. So they're doing a cost benefit analysis and they're looking at it and saying, well what's the cost of me not complying or hotel not complying? And in some cases financially that makes sense. However, I think we need to take a step back here. Fact is that unions started with, you know, disturbed with union requirements in New York and DC and then it went to become city law in Seattle, in Chicago and ballooned from there. And now that brands have put their name behind it and brands have said, you know, we really care about our employees and they've come out with brand mandates that require hotels to have safety buttons by the end of 2020 and then there's now state legislation. Fact is that there's no baseline of liability. Whether the specific jurisdiction has deep fines or not is almost irrelevant fact as that from just the point that brands and laws both require it . There's this, the the perception you could say under legal requirements that this is this. There's an expectation to have this. Clearly enough States, cities and brands think this is important that you should have it. So from that point of view, if now something happens at a hotel, which may not be in a jurisdiction that requires it or may not be part of a brand, there's still part of the liability because there's the standard among hotels. So this in a ways now commonplace, this has become part of the bottom line at hotels to have this in their budgets every year, just like you would budget for a wifi equipment, wireless access points, you now have to budget for safety buttons. So they're opting out of it because of the cost , because they've, you know , the risk reward may feel like it's worth the risk. But in my mind, given that there's this baseline now created the reputational risk and the feeling that they have time on their side. That's the other thing we find people feel that, Oh it's in 2020 we got time and fact is , we noticed this in Chicago, this eight to 10 months that hotels had before they had to comply with the law. It went by quick, I mean to the time to do research, the time to do things, time flies and before they know it it'll be the deadline and then there'll be scrambling to meet that deadline. Okay. So let's go through a couple of those points you mentioned. So lack of understanding of the laws. So let's actually dig into what New Jersey legislation says about that. When is this deadline and who does the legislation apply to? So the legislation applies to all hotels that the immediate one for 2020 is that it applies to all hotels with hundred guests rooms or more. And you asked about the deadline and that's an interesting question. You would think that'd be one of the simplest answers, wouldn't you? But it's actually interesting because the language itself is quite confusing. The way it's framed. It actually could be December one 2019 or January one 2019 or sorry, 2020 and media outlets. Law firms have written articles where they've said New Jersey deadline is January one 2020 when we read it, we said, okay, it's January one 2020 but then when we went back and looked at the language, it was confusing. So we, we kind of struggled with the leg with it and said, okay, what is the deadline? And we thought, okay, well let's just call it the legislative office. Let's have them be the source. And it turned out, they surprised us and said, well, the deadline is December one 2019 it really now depends up to the hotel. The language is confusing. There's enough media and attorneys that have put out summaries that have said it is January one 2020 so unless someone really digs into it , um , the legislative offices, it's December one 2019 I think it really is up to the hotels. At the end of the day, they should have it done by December 31st, 2019 in any case. But if you want to air on the side of caution, the deadline in New Jersey, you should consider that to be December one 2019. Okay. So it's going to be up to the discretion of the hotels for that deadline. But do reach out to the legislative office if you have any questions. Um, so the actual legislation considers this a panic button. I know we've been using the term safety button. Um , what does New Jersey consider a panic button? So in New Jersey, a panic button device means a portable emergency contact two way or other communication device, which is kept on an employees person. So when they're in an employee guestroom and then it allows them to quickly and easily activate to communicate or otherwise summon immediate on-scene assistance. So it really is a communication device in , it's interesting, this is one of the only legislations that actually uses two way radio in their legislation. So it does allow for that. And you have two way radios come with their own expense. But the goal is that as long as the employee can quickly and easily activate it to effectively summon immediate on-scene assistance. So that's what a panic button is. Okay. And which employees need the panic button and where do they need to have them? So they need to have them in guest rooms and it's basically any employee full time or part time employee performing housekeeping or room service duties when no other employees present. And that's something that's in all the legislations across the board is when no other employees presence . So if you have a hotel where two employees work side by side, in that case the requirement doesn't apply to you, the law does not apply to you. But that also means doubling up on labor. But where employees are working alone and they're doing housekeeping and room service duties alone, that's when they are required to carry this. So I'm a housekeeper, I have this panic button, I press it. What type of response is needed? And this is where you're , that's, that's a really good question because this is where a lot of the States differ and cities differ. There's the effective effective summon for prompt assistance and then immediate non seen assistance in New Jersey. The standard is immediate on scene assistance. So the risk , the, the thing is that here at the button has to be able to provide you with the exact location of the employee when that occurs. So there's various technologies and this actually helps you make the decision. So if you're looking at and saying, okay, what do I need? You look at the legislation and you say, kid requires me to have immediate on-scene assistance. How do I do that? Well I need to know employee's location. I need to know their real time location when they press the button. So that's the first thing. And then when they do that, the response has to be prompt and that's what what it says in the legislation that they have to respond properly and get to that location. So, you know, and then the interesting thing is that in this case they have included that it can be people that can respond, can be a security officer, a manager , supervisor, or any other appropriate hotel staff members. So they've kind of broaden that, which is not language we see across the board. It's some jurisdictions have that others don't. So in this case, you know, it can be any appropriate hotel staff members. So that's left to the hotel's discretion. Are there any additional requirements for New Jersey? There are. So there's a couple of other requirements. For example, there is a requirement to keep a record of the name. If a guest is accused of having um, you know, allegedly assaulting an employee, then you have to keep their name on file for about five years if they're convicted and so on. You can bend the guest's for about three years from staying at your hotel. You have to give PTO to the employee to be able to make the report. And then hotels must report the incidents involving criminal behavior to appropriate law enforcement agencies. And then one of the other requirements is that hotels are required to have signage behind their guest room doors in a prominent location in large font that they do have , um, their employees do carry employee safety devices are panic buttons. Okay. So there's obviously a lot of requirements here and the New Jersey legislation. So I know there's a fine of hotels don't comply by either December 1st, 2019 or January 1st, 2020, again, up to your discretion. What does the fine a New Jersey, so New Jersey has one of the steepest fines. New Jersey's fine is $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation thereafter. So it is one of the highest fines in the country. And so for New Jersey hotels, it would be critical to have this in place as soon as possible. So not only is there a steep monetary fine, but there are also some more risks to noncompliance. What is the true cost of not equipping your employees with a safety button? So, you know, with the AHLA five-star promise and , um , the brands making that commitment. I think the first and foremost thing is hotels now recognize and brands , um, acknowledge that it's just a right thing to do. Right? Um, it's just something that we need to do as a community to protect our employees and to empower them with the safety device so that they can go about their day to day jobs. But so, you know, there's a soft benefit to that. The morale, the feeling of empowerment by the employees. We are largely female population and they're going into these rooms opening the door into a very personal space. But beyond that, there's actually the, the risk is the true costs comes down to liability and reputational risks. Is the liability worth it? What about, you know , there's a story I heard, I was speaking with a GM at an event and she became very emotional and we talked about the solution. We talked about this and when I had dug a little deeper, she told about the story of her hotel and how a few weeks prior someone had been assaulted at her hotel. One of her, and this was a housekeeping manager and she was still quite impacted and she was very teary-eyed. I'm very emotional about it. And so clearly there's an emotional cost because it wasn't just the individual that was impacted here, her team was impacted, her manager was impacted. She said, I wished there was something more I could have done. And you know, it's something that people carry. So from an employee morale, it's not just about the individual being impacted, it's about the team. And then the reputational risk. So we had an incident here in Chicago , um, outside of Chicago recently, and it's what does that mean to the hotel where, you know, people sent me articles from all over saying, did you know about this? And, and I'm sure no hotel wants to be in that position. So to avoid that, the best is to just have these solutions in place so that you can, even if there's that one incident that you can protect or prevent, it's worth it. Right? Absolutely. So as far as the various options of safety button vendors on the market, how should someone choose? First and foremost, hotels need to look at their infrastructure. What do you have? Do you have a heritage hotel full of concrete? Do you have brick or you know, are you , are you served as standard hotel? And then what is, what does your technology infrastructure look like? And do you have the latest access points? Because it can really narrow the pool down for different vendors as to which technologies will work in your hotel and which technologies will be more cost effective in your hotels. So kind of doing some introspection there as to what's your infrastructure from a building perspective, technology perspective. And then looking at, you know, what is your budget now everyone wants to pay the least amount of money. There's some vendors that do self installs and is that the right solution for you? I mean, what if you don't install it right? Who's liable? The vendor then clearly can say, well you didn't install it right, therefore you're liable. But we are talking about people's safety here. So is that the right approach? So really it's a business decision as much as a legal decision in looking at what if, what are we looking at in terms of our infrastructure? What are we looking at in terms of costs? And what if things go wrong? Who, who can we make sure we'll be there to be a partner with us in that circumstance. And then also what about the future? There's some solutions that are perfectly okay today, but what more do they have to offer? So in some jurisdictions, you know, today we're looking at that only housekeepers are covered. Well what if that, you know , increases that categories broadened to include bellmen as we're seeing as more jurisdictions come out with it, they're adding more and more categories. There's another jurisdiction that requires every and every engineer to be covered. Well what if that happens at your hotel? Does that mean that you'll have to now uproot and put in a whole other infrastructure? Or can you simply just give out new buttons and be done with it? So that's , that's sort of something to also consider with the fact that these requirements can be dynamic, not static as people look to comply with the requirements. So in your opinion, what is the best way for a hotel to make sure they're in compliance by this time? First is do your research and that can take time. So start now. Um, the research can take time and then time to get into agreements. We found that it typically takes, you know, upwards of a week to be able to enter into an agreement and the fastest agreement can still take a bit of time of going back and forth and getting the right signatures on there and then making sure that the vendor has inventory. So as we get closer to the deadlines, vendors run out of inventory, that's what happened in Chicago last year. People called us and said, you know, we really want to get in , can you squeeze us in? And it was making sure we have enough inventory planned out. So making sure you're able to do that in launch in time for the deadline. So how can track and protect help? So tracking protect is a leading provider of safety buttons, two hotels. We've designed our safety buttons based on feedback from housekeepers and hoteliers in making sure that not only does it comply with the regulatory requirements, it's easy to use, easy to deploy. We install it to make sure that hoteliers are taken care of and that we can make sure it works from the day it's launched. And the fact that we look at the infrastructure of the hotel and then quote the property accordingly and also make it so that it records incidences so that when there is an alert it records that there was an alert and you can put in notes and pictures and allows you to track what happened and be able to communicate about that and use training to follow up with that. And then we have an online training platform that allows you to track who was trained when, so that you can have standard operating procedures that also oversee not just the deployment of the safety buttons, but also the fact that how do they continue to work as they become part of your operations. So fundamentally we found, you know, we really, as we train housekeepers, we've made the buttons to be easy to use, easy to wear . They can just wear them on their master keys. And then all the hard work is done in our cloud, in our software. So that hoteliers aren't even aware that the system is there and then when you need it, it's there and it works. Well. Thank you. Parminder that's all we have time for today on New Jersey legislation. Thank you for joining us. Thanks for having me again. And listeners, if you want more information, please follow us everywhere on social at track and protect, as well as our website track of protect. That's T R a, K N protect.com and stay tuned for the next episode in our safety button series. We'll be talking about Washington legislation.