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Lancman aims to protect maids with new bill

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Following former International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s indictment last week on charges he sexually assaulted a maid in a midtown Manhattan hotel, state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) authored a bill requiring hotels to provide staff with electronic panic alert devices that notify hotel security of an emergency.

“We can no longer send housekeepers into hotel rooms, isolated from other workers and hotel security, without giving them means to immediately access help in the event of an assault,” said Lancman, who held a news conference Sunday outside the Sofitel New York Hotel on West 44th Street, where the alleged sexual assault occurred a week earlier.

Lancman, chairman of the Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety, said he was drawn to drawing up the bill after reports surfaced about hotel maids who claimed they were groped or inappropriately propositioned by hotel guests while working alone in a hotel room.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, who was a leading candidate for the French presidency and stepped down as head of the IMF in the wake of the charges, allegedly forced the 32-year-old maid, an immigrant from Guinea, to perform oral sex May 14.

He was indicted on sexual assault charges May 18 and freed on $1 million bail and a $5 million bond.

Strauss-Kahn is now staying at a Manhattan apartment under house arrest and his attorneys claimed the encounter with the maid may have been consensual.

Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, said he supported Lancman’s bill.

“As we have seen, workers in hotels often face dangerous situations alone,” he said. “This reasonable proposal would ensure that thousands of hotel workers are not put at unnecessary risk.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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