New York Passes Law Requiring Panic Buttons In Large Retail Stores, Walmart Rejects Plan

The New York State legislature has passed a law mandating most of the nation’s largest retail companies to install easily accessible panic buttons in their stores or provide employees with a switch to trigger an alarm and notify emergency services. The “Retail Worker Safety Act” aims to address the growing concerns over worker safety amid an increase in crime, petty thefts, lootings, and smash-and-grabs in the state.

However, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer with 4,700 stores nationwide, has come out strongly against the law, claiming that panic buttons often trigger false alarms. Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, told Reuters, “Eight out of 10 times somebody thinks something’s going on, there’s actually not.” He also argued that it would be impractical for Walmart to install panic buttons in each of its 98 store locations in New York.

The legislation, which has moved to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office for signature, will go into effect in 2027 and applies to all retailers with more than 500 employees nationwide. Additionally, the law will require most retailers with a workforce of 10 or more employees to conduct safety and violence prevention training for their staff.

While Walmart’s workforce is not unionized, retail unions, including the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents more than 100,000 workers, support the law and want to see it take effect.