Hospitality Labor and Employment Law Blog

Hospitality Labor and Employment Law Blog

Category Archives: Hotels

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Will California Restaurants Have To Provide Seats To Hosts, Hostesses And Line Cooks? Will Hotels Have To Provide Seats To Their Front Desk Staffs?

By Michael Kun

Several years ago, employees in California began filing class action lawsuits against their employers alleging violations of the “suitable seating” provision buried in the state’s Wage Orders.  The unique provision requires some employers to provide “suitable seating” to some employees when the “nature of their work” would “reasonably permit it.” 

The use of multiple sets of quotation marks in the previous sentence should give readers a good idea just how little guidance employers have about the obscure law.  

The California Supreme Court is now poised to explain what that obscure law means for those employers who … Continue Reading

How Hoteliers Must Comply With WARN

By Kara M. Maciel

When hoteliers are considering purchasing, selling or remodeling hotels, one of the most overlooked issues during the due diligence and planning phases relates to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

This statute requires covered employers to provide 60 days’ notice to employees, union representatives, state agencies and localities before carrying out plant closings or mass layoffs.[1] Congress intentionally devised WARN to provide affected employees adequate time to prepare for employment loss, seek and obtain alternative employment, and/or arrange for skill training or retraining to compete successfully in the job market.

Accordingly, hotel buyers, sellers, owners … Continue Reading

Wage and Hour Update

Our colleague Kara M. Maciel of Epstein Becker Green wrote a wage and hour update in this month’s Take 5 labor and employment newsletter.

Here’s a preview of the five items:

1. IRS Will Begin Taxing a Restaurant’s Automatic Gratuities as Service Charges
2. The New DOL Secretary, Tom Perez, Spells Out the WHD’s Enforcement Agenda
3. DOL Investigates Health Care Provider and Obtains $4 Million Settlement for Overtime Payments
4. Federal Court Strikes Down DOL Tip Pooling Rule
5. Take Preventative Steps When Facing WHD Audits

Read the full article here.

 … Continue Reading

Take 5 Views You Can Use: Wage and Hour Update

By:  Kara M. Maciel

The following is a selection from the Firm’s October Take 5 Views You Can Use which discusses recent developments in wage hour law affecting the hospitality industry.

IRS Will Begin Taxing a Restaurant’s Automatic Gratuities as Service Charges

Many restaurants include automatic gratuities on the checks of guests with large parties to ensure that servers get fair tips. This method allows the restaurant to calculate an amount into the total bill, but it takes away a customer’s discretion in choosing whether and/or how much to tip the server. As a result of this removal of a … Continue Reading

Serving Up More Taxes – IRS to Begin Taxing Automatic Gratuities as Service Charges

By: Kara M. Maciel

Many restaurants include automatic gratuities on guests’ checks with large parties to ensure servers get fair tips. This method allows the restaurant to calculate an automatic gratuity or tip into the total bill, but it takes away the customer’s discretion in choosing whether and/or how much to tip the server. As a result of this removal of a customer’s voluntary act, the IRS has decided that it will separately tax automatic gratuities.

In 2012, the IRS issued a ruling to clarify earlier tax guidance on tips, particularly automatic gratuities, but because restaurants persuaded the IRS to hold off … Continue Reading

ADA Compliance: Implications for Owners and Managers When Acquiring or Developing New Lodging Facilities

On September 18, 2013, our hospitality practice attorneys, Kara Maciel and Mark Trapp, have the pleasure of speaking at the Lodging Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona on key financial and legal issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act impacting hotel owners and managers when acquiring, selling, developing or managing properties. 

Under the 2010 ADA Standards, which became effective in March of 2012, hotels must take steps to remove access barriers for individuals with disabilities. The new federal standards encompass some key changes for hotel owners, operators and developers.   Our Round Table discussion will focus on hot-button issues facing the hotel industry, including:… Continue Reading

ADA Accessibility Notes from the Resort Hotel Association Conference

By:  Kara Maciel

Last week, I had the honor of attending the Resort Hotel Association’s (“RHA”) Annual Conference at The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle.  RHA is comprised of 130 independently-owned resorts, hotels, city clubs and spas in the United States and specializes in insurance programs that address the risks unique to the lodging industry.  For the second year in a row, RHA invited me and my colleague, Jordan Schwartz, to speak on the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and public accommodations issues that hotel and lodging operators face. The room was packed and due to constant questions from the … Continue Reading

Court of Appeals Rules NLRB Notice Posting Violates Employer Free Speech Rights

By Adam C. Abrahms and Steven M. Swirsky

In another major defeat for President Obama’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board), the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit found that the Board lacked the authority to issue a 2011 rule which would have required all employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”), including those whose employees are not unionized, to post a workplace notice to employees. The putative Notice, called a “Notification of Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act,” is intended to ostensibly inform employees of their rights to … Continue Reading

The NLRB–Organizing by Pop-Up Unions in Break-Out Units

By: Allen B. Roberts

I wrote the February 2013 version of Take 5 Views You Can Use, a newsletter published by the Labor and Employment practice of Epstein Becker Green. In it, I discuss an alternative view of five topics that are likely to impact hospitality employers in 2013 and beyond. One topic involved the potential for labor organizing by pop-up unions in break-out units.  

Despite some perceptions of cohesiveness and political acumen, influence and wherewithal following the 2012 election cycle, labor unions represent only about 7.3 percent of the private sector workforce in the United States, and only 6.6 percent of … Continue Reading

Five Actions Hospitality Employers Should Consider Taking to Comply with the Affordable Care Act

By Greta Ravitsky

I wrote the January 2013 edition of Take 5: Views You Can Use, a newsletter published by the Labor and Employment practice of Epstein Becker Green.

In it, I summarize five actions that hospitality employers should consider taking in 2013 as the DOL steps up its audit efforts under the leadership of the reenergized Obama administration,

  1. Assess the Workforce
  2. Choose Whether to “Pay” or to “Play”
  3. Evaluate Existing Wellness Programs and/or Implement New Wellness Programs to Enhance Employees’ Health Profiles and to Avoid or Minimize the “Cadillac Tax”
  4. Understand and Be Ready to Comply with New
  5. Continue Reading

IRS Releases New Affordable Care Act Guidance on the Employer Mandate

By: Kara M. Maciel, Adam Solander, Brandon Ge and Philo Hall

As we blogged about previously, the Affordable Care Act provides unique compliance obligations for hospitality employers, many of whom employ large numbers of part-time and seasonal employees.  On December 28, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) on Shared Responsibility for Employers Regarding Health Coverage (the “Employer Mandate”) under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). The NPRM largely incorporates previously released guidance on the subject (IRS Notices 2011-36, 2011-73, 2012-17, and 2012-58).  Employers may rely on these proposed … Continue Reading

Pool Lifts Must Comply With ADA Regulations By End of January

By Kara Maciel and Jordan Schwartz  

As a reminder, January 31, 2013 is the deadline for hotels and other places of public accommodation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (“ADA”) requirements set forth in the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (“2010 Standards”) related to the provision of accessible entry and exit to existing swimming pools, wading pools and spas (including pool lifts). 

As we explained here, although the effective date for the 2010 Standards was March 15, 2012, in response to public comments and concerns, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) provided a 10-month grace period … Continue Reading

Hurricane Sandy Is About to Blow Our Way: Wage & Hour Implications for the Hospitality Industry

By: Kara Maciel

Hurricane Sandy is approaching this weekend, so hospitality employers along the East Coast should refresh themselves on the wage and hour issues arising from the possibility of missed work days in the wake of the storm.

A few brief points that all employers should be mindful of under the FLSA:

  • A non-exempt employee generally does not have to be paid for weather-related absences. An employer may allow (or require) non-exempt employees to use vacation or personal leave days for such absences. But, if the employer has a collective bargaining agreement or handbook policies, the employer may obligate
  • Continue Reading

NLRB Deflates Hotel Bel-Air’s Severance Agreements to Union Employees

By Paul Burmeister

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has ruled that negotiations between the Hotel Bel-Air and UNITE HERE Local 11 were not at impasse when the employer implemented its last, best final offer, which included severance payments to union employees. Hotel Bel-Air, 358 NLRB 152 (September 27, 2012). The NLRB upheld the ALJ’s order for the employer to bargain with the Union and to rescind all the signed severance agreements containing a waiver of future employment with the Hotel Bel-Air.

The Hotel Bel-Air is a luxury hotel located in Los Angeles. The Hotel Bel-Air (“Employer”) … Continue Reading

Timeline of Highlights for Employer Group Health Plan Compliance with the Affordable Care Act

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld essentially all of the provisions of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), hospitality employers are faced with looming deadlines to bring their group health plans into compliance with the ACA’s numerous new requirements. We have prepared for employers a timeline of the highlights of the upcoming deadlines for compliance with the ACA that apply to non-grandfathered group health plans.

Click here to access a copy of the timeline.

 … Continue Reading

Tip Pools: Challenging DOL’s Amended Rule on Employee Participation

By:  Kara M. Maciel

In April of 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) changed its rule defining the general characteristics of tips in an attempt to overrule the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Cumbie v. Woody Woo, Inc. ruling that the FLSA does not impose any restrictions on the kinds of employees who may participate in a valid tip pool where the employer does not claim the “tip credit.”

DOL’s Recent Position on Tip Pool Participation

The DOL’s amended rule provides that tips are the property of the employees, and may not be used by … Continue Reading

Texas Roadhouse, Inc. Settles Its Beef With Wait Staff For $5 Million

By  Kara Maciel and Casey Cosentino

The restaurant and hospitality industries are no strangers to the tidal wave of wage and hour class action lawsuits. Restaurants and hotel operators located in states with employee-friendly laws like Massachusetts, New York, and California, are particularly vulnerable. This vulnerability was recently confirmed on April 30, 2012, when Texas Roadhouse, Inc. agreed to pay $5 million to settle a putative class action suit filed by wait staff employees from nine restaurants in Massachusetts.

In Crenshaw, et. al, v. Texas Roadhouse, Inc. (No. 11-10549-JLT), the plaintiffs alleged that Texas Roadhouse violated Massachusetts Tips Law by retaining and … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Limits OSHA’s Recordkeeping “Madness”

By Eric J. Conn and Casey M. Cosentino

In what has been good news for hospitality employers, the past month has been a rough stretch for OSHA in terms of Injury and Illness Recordkeeping enforcement.  As we reported last month on the OSHA Law Update Blog, in March, the Seventh Circuit beat back OSHA’s attempt to expand the meaning of “work related” for purposes of determining whether an injury or illnesses is recordable.  Then last month, the District of Columbia Circuit further and dramatically limited OSHA’s authority to cite Recordkeeping violations, by insisting that the injury that is the … Continue Reading

New HazCom Standard: The Most Frequently Cited Standard in the Hospitality Industry Gets a Facelift

By Eric J. Conn and Casey M. Cosentino

For years, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (“HazCom”) has been the standard most frequently cited against hotel and other hospitality employers.

In FY 2011 37 hotel companies were cited for violations of the HazCom Standard, including, primarily, alleged failures to:

(1) maintain a written Hazard Communication Program;

(2) ensure each container of hazardous chemicals (such as cleaning agents) is labeled, tagged, or marked;

(3) maintain a complete set of Material Safety Data Sheets (“MSDS’s”) for each hazardous chemical at the workplace; and

(4) train employees in the written program and how to use MSDS’s

This important OSHA … Continue Reading

Are Employer Social Networking Accounts Protectable Trade Secrets?

By: Kara M. Maciel and Matthew Sorensen

Social media has become an increasingly important tool for businesses to market their products and services. As the use of social media in business continues to grow, companies will face new challenges with respect to the protection of their confidential information and business goodwill, as several recent federal district court decisions demonstrate.  

Christou v. Beatport, LLC (D. Colo. 2012), Ardis Health, LLC v. Nankivell (S.D. N.Y. 2011), and PhoneDog v. Kravitz (N.D. Cal. 2011) each involved former employees who took the login credentials for their employers’ business social media accounts when they left their … Continue Reading

5 Ways to Avoid a $55,000 Fine from the DOJ

By:  Kara M. Maciel

Today, March 15, marks the effective date of the 2010 ADA Standards for hotels, restaurants, retailers, spas, golf clubs and other places of public accomodation.  As we have written about previously, there are several new requirements and obligations that the hospitality industry must implement in order to ensure their properties are compliant with the new regulations.  Below are five steps every hospitality owner and operator should consider to avoid costly fines and lawsuits:

1.  Implement new reservation policies for blocking off rooms and ensuring staff communicates effectively with guests as to the accessible elements within the Hotel.

2.  Know what you can … Continue Reading

Hotel Operators and Managers Remain Vulnerable to Wage and Hour Class Actions

By:  Casey Cosentino

A hotel management company was recently hit with a putative class action in federal court for allegedly failing to compensate hotel employees overtime pay at one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. As the chief engineer, the lead plaintiff was classified as an executive employee and, thus, was exempt from overtime requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The lead plaintiff asserts, however, that he was misclassified under the Executive exemption because he “regularly and routinely performed non-exempt tasks . . . including but not limited … Continue Reading

Mandatory Employee Arbitration Agreements: The NLRB Throws a Wrench into Their Enforceability

By:  Forrest G. Read, IV

Arbitration agreements can be an effective way for employers in the hospitality industry to streamline and isolate an employee’s potential claims on an individual basis and protect themselves from a proliferation of lawsuits with many plaintiffs or claimants. But the National Labor Relations Board’s (“Board”) January 6, 2012 decision in D.R. Horton, Inc. and Michael Cuda, notably finalized by two Board Members on departing Member Craig Becker’s final day, has caused significant confusion as to how employers can enforce such arbitration agreements with their employees over employment claims, including wage and hour disputes. 

In D.R. Continue Reading

NLRB Recess Appointments Challenged — Could Further Postpone Notice Posting

By:  Evan Rosen

As Hospitalty Labor and Employment Law Blog readers are aware, on August 30, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) issued a rule requiring employers to post notices informing employees of their right to join or form a union.  We blogged about the impact of the notice and its requirements on hospitality employers here.  The rule was originally supposed to go into effect in November, but was subsequently pushed back to January 31, 2012 as a result of mounting criticism against the rule.  Indeed, several lawsuits have been filed by business groups alleging that the Board overstepped its … Continue Reading

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