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Total Articles: 42

Restaurant Industry Workplace Law Update – Fall 2019

To assist restaurant owners and professionals in assessing emerging employment risks, we are pleased to provide the first issue of our newsletter. The Restaurant Industry Workplace Law Update highlights topical issues in claims, defenses, and liability risk management developments.

Hospitality Update (No. 4, December 2019)

There’s a lot of confusion and questions about CBD products and what it means for CBD-related industries, especially those in the food and beverage industry. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the “Farm Bill,” removed industrial hemp and products derived from it, including CBD, from the Schedule I list of drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Which means industrial hemp is no longer illegal at the federal level. So things should be easy, right?

Hospitality Update (No.3, September 2019)

The surge in popularity of the gig economy in recent years has largely been a positive trend. The gig economy has made it possible for us to Uber from place to place, hire housecleaners or handymen as needed, find a dog walker or babysitter at the last minute, and have just about any meal you want delivered to your door quickly. All with the touch of an app.

Hospitality Update (No. 2, June 2019)

Yes, indeed—the labor market is tight. And with the nationwide unemployment rate below 4 percent, 263,000 new jobs created in April 2019, and a sizzling economy, the labor market is likely to get even tighter. This is especially true for the hospitality industry, which has traditionally relied upon a steady stream of lower-skilled and younger applicants eager to enter into the job market. In fact, the National Restaurant Association predicts that jobs in the food service industry will top 15 million in 2019, and lists recruiting and retaining employees among the top challenges for operators.

Three Proposed Regulations That Should Be on the Hospitality Industry's Radar

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has issued three sets of proposed regulations that significantly impact the Hospitality industry. As recently discussed in several Littler articles, after two years of regulatory inactivity, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division published three Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) regarding overtime exemptions, the regular rate, and joint employment under the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

Littler Lightbulb: Highlighting Five Trends in Hospitality

As part of our practice, we like to keep an eye on significant legislative, regulatory, and judicial developments affecting our clients in the hospitality industry. Based on our monitoring of these legal trends, we are shining a light on five key issues that are, or should be, top of mind right now for hospitality employers.

Hospitality Update (No.1, March 2019)

A Florida federal jury recently handed down a shocking $21.5 million verdict in favor of a dishwasher alleging religious discrimination when she was fired after refusing to work Sundays. This case begs the question…how did this happen?! And what can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you?

Hospitality Update (No. 4, December 2018)

hether internal or external, violence in the workplace is an increasingly problematic issue that employers must learn to effectively minimize and prevent. This is even more important in the hospitality industry, given the constant interaction with the public, the high rate of turnover, and the added responsibility of dealing with available cash. It is imperative that employers recognize and understand the need to take constant and active steps to address both internal and external potential threats of workplace violence.

Hurricane Preparedness and Response for the Restaurant Industry

As residents and employers on the East Coast are aware, Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall shortly. This type of disaster can take a toll on businesses in the affected areas, from property damage to employee safety complications. Employers in the restaurant industry face a unique set of potential issues before, during, and after a disaster like a hurricane. Ogletree Deakins shareholder Hal A. Shillingstad recently sat down with Nation’s Restaurant News to discuss what restaurants can do right now to prepare.

Hospitality Update (No. 3, September 2018)

The hospitality industry is an increasingly popular target for enforcement actions by government agencies, not to mention lawsuits by plaintiffs’ attorneys. To help avoid three common wage and hour issues that come up too often in hospitality businesses, here are just a few questions you should ask yourself right now. Note: these examples address federal wage and hour laws and regulations; many states have their own laws and regulations that may also come into play. You should check with your Fisher Phillips attorney if you have specific questions about local compliance issues.

Don't "Panic": A New Legislative Trend for Hotel Employers?

Bruce Sarchet and Corinn Jackson, both with Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute, discuss a noticeable trend developing in the hotel industry. They review the burgeoning popularity of laws requiring hotel employers to provide certain workers – primarily guestroom cleaning staff – with panic buttons to be used in emergencies, including instances of sexual harassment by guests. Bruce and Corinn survey panic button ordinances enacted in Seattle, Sacramento, and Chicago. They also consider a bill pending in California that would impose similar obligations statewide.

Hospitality Update (No. 4, December 2017)

Tipping Point Of Confusion: Contradictions Abound In Tip Credit Rules

Serial Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Commences Latest Round of Hotel Litigation: How Can Hotels Protect Themselves?

Just as one flood of lawsuits against Arizona businesses finally dries up, another downpour begins. Peter Strojnik of Phoenix, the same attorney who filed more than 1,100 lawsuits that drew the attention of the Arizona attorney general, has filed approximately 60 new lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against motels and places of lodging in the last three months in federal court in Arizona. Fernando Gastelum, an Arizona resident with a prosthetic leg who uses a wheelchair, is the plaintiff in each of these cases. In each suit, Gastelum claims that he visited the hotel or motel’s website to determine if the property provides the accessible features necessary for him to be able to stay there. He claims that the websites failed to disclose sufficient information about their accessibility and that, upon visiting each hotel or motel, he discovered barriers to access, including a lack of accessible parking spaces, steep ramps, stairs with open risers, and other alleged ADA violations. He seeks orders requiring the hotels and motels to remove the alleged access barriers and revise their websites, and demands damages, including punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Hospitality Update (No. 3, September 2017)

Hospitality employers open to the general public should be aware of a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with implications across the industry. In a 2-to-1 decision, the NLRB ruled that a hotel and casino unlawfully retaliated against a former employee by barring her from its premises after she filed a suit for unpaid wages (MEI-GSR Holdings, LLC d/b/a Grand Sierra Resort & Casino/HG Staffing). Following this decision, employers should think twice before limiting access to former employees because of a pending lawsuit, claim, or charge

Hospitality Businesses Implement Uber-Like Tactics To Address Worker Shortages

When it rains, it pours. If you think back roughly nine years ago, at the crippling height of the economic downturn, employers were laying off workers en masse across all industries. Fast forward to 2017, and they can’t get enough of them. The concern has clearly shifted from no jobs to no workers. What’s even more ironic is that industries that were releasing the most workers during the recession – namely, hospitality businesses such as restaurants and hotels – are now struggling to now find employees to fill vacant positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one third of the 388 metropolitan areas that it tracks report unemployment at below 4 percent.

Hospitality Update (No. 2, June 2017)

Newspaper headlines, television airwaves, and social media links are filled with companies dealing with crises on a near-daily basis. Just as Samsung learned in 2016 when its phones were catching on fire, and as United Airlines learned in April when news of the forcible removal of a passenger from one of its aircraft dominated the headlines, a crisis can happen in seconds and spread across the world in minutes. No matter how well you prepare, you could be next. Is your property prepared to handle a crisis?

The Top 5 Wage & Hour Class/Collective Action Claims that Hospitality Employers Face (And How to Avoid Them)

Wage and hour class action jurisprudence continues to twist and turn down an unusual path. As a consequence of the limited consistent case precedent in this area, hospitality employers defending against these claims face difficulty in accurately predicting their legal outcome.

Hospitality Update (No. 1, March 2017)

Top 20 Immigration Compliance Tips For Hospitality Employers

Hospitality Update (No. 3, September 2016)

Active Shooters In The Workplace: Is The Hospitality Industry Ready?

Zika and the Hospitality Employer: Evolving Concerns as the Virus Comes to the U.S.

We’ve previously answered some basic questions that employers may have when their employees work in or visit locations where exposure to Zika virus is a risk. With recent news concerning the first cases of transmission of the virus by mosquitoes in the Miami, Florida area, hospitality employers are becoming increasingly concerned about how the virus will affect their businesses. This blog post will address some issues unique to the hospitality industry.

Hospitality Update (No. 2, June 2016)

Like most in the hospitality industry, you are constantly balancing many competing demands. At any given moment, you could be focusing on managing staff performance. Or perhaps you are reviewing your employment policies to see if they are legal, or checking your website to ensure it complies with accessibility requirements. All the while, you are maintaining your laser focus on guest service and satisfaction. But what happens when the very guests whose demands you are satisfying without hesitation or question take an inappropriate interest in your employees, or worse, harass them? Do you have to be the one to address the harassment?

The Zika Virus: FAQs For Hospitality Employers

The World Health Organization recently declared Zika a global public health emergency, only the fourth time the agency has declared the spread of a disease to be a health emergency of international concern. The following Frequently Asked Questions will help hospitality employers better understand the virus and its impact on the workplace:

Proposed OT Regulations Will Hit Hospitality Industry Hard

At long last, the anxiously awaited proposed changes to the regulations defining federal wage and hour law have been published by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). The changes, if adopted, would impact the determination of which of your employees has to be paid overtime. These regulations will sharply reduce the number of workers across the country who are exempt from OT pay and will work to give many employees a raise in pay.

Limiting Off-Duty Access To The Hotel

Many hospitality employers are surprised to learn that employees have a right under federal labor law to access the exterior, nonworking areas of the hotel property in their off-duty hours for union or other protected concerted activities. Hospitality employers are also surprised to learn that handbook rules prohibiting any off-duty employee access or conditioning off-duty employee access on manager approval are unlawful.

Box Score: Compiled by the Hospitality Update Staff

In the most recent 60-day reporting period, we were aware of 25 petitions filed against hospitality employers.

Hospitality Update: Summer Hires

This summer it’s expected that temporary workers will fill roughly 10,000 summer jobs, many of which will be in the hospitality industry. Before filling any of your seasonal positions, it’s worth reviewing a few cautionary items:

Top 5 Legal Trends For Hospitality Employers

There is much to be learned from 2013. Below are five legal topics that made headlines last year, and should provide valuable guidance for managing labor and employment law issues in 2014.

Hospitality: When Is A Union Not A Union? When It's A "Worker Center."

In recent weeks, the fast-food industry has fallen prey to coordinated demonstrations by a number of loosely affiliated groups, rallying around wages, benefits and other conditions. The strategy invoked by these so-called "worker centers" (or "alt-unions") is not altogether new, and was actually contemplated by unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) years ago. At that time, an internal strategy memo was leaked, at which point the union’s intent to organize fast food restaurants was made public. While these reports were met with alarm on behalf of food establishments and other service-sector employers, little came of the effort, which fizzled out as quickly as it started.

Hospitality: Deep-Fried Discrimination Claim: Lisa T. Jackson v. Paula Deen, et al.

The whole country watched as celebrity chef Paula Deen was roasted over the lawsuit filed by a former general manager of a Deen-affiliated restaurant. Now that the media storm is starting to fade, what lessons can employers and human resources professionals learn from what happened? Keep reading for a recipe to keep you “out of the frying pan” (and the fryer)!

Hospitality: Wash Your *!&# Hands! Employers And The Flu

Almost 4.1 million employees missed work due to illness last January, which was the most since 2008. Even worse, the four-month peak season lasted through March, so the numbers continued to add up. Some years, absences during that four-month period ran at 3.8 million a month, for a whopping total of 15+ million absences. Remember news outlets carrying stories in January 2013 about the City of Boston declaring a state of public-health emergency and of Chicago hospitals having to send flu patients to other hospitals?

Restaurant Industry Newsletter (July 2013)

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) establishes and enforces workplace safety regulations in several industries, including restaurants. Under the Obama administration, OSHA has undertaken several new enforcement initiatives that have a wide-ranging impact on employers in the restaurant industry.

Restaurant Industry Legal Alert: Child Labor Restrictions Could Impact Summer Hiring

Everyone remembers their first summer job in high school. It was not only your first taste of what it meant to work for a living, but also your first taste of having some extra spending money for the weekend. One of the most popular industries in which people look for summer jobs is the restaurant industry. In fact, only the construction industry adds more summer jobs each year than the restaurant industry. Therefore, it probably comes as no surprise that the National Restaurant Association projects restaurants to add around 448,000 jobs this summer, a 4.5 % increase over their collective March 2013 employment levels.

Let Me Take A Look At That Tattoo

There is no question that tattoos, body piercings, and other forms of self-expression have become commonplace in modern society, especially among the Gen X and Gen Y demographic. As a result, employers have to deal with these issues in the workplace, even in companies that traditionally have had conservative dress and appearance expectations such as high-end restaurants and luxury hotels.

Hospitality Industry: Looking For That "Special Look"?

Lots of hospitality employers, and a fair number of retail employers as well, spend time, money, and thought creating a brand or "look." They're trying to create something beyond just a logo or store colors; something that stands out just by looking at the very employees who work there. The way they look. The way they dress.

Hospitality eAuthority (July 2011)

PDF Version of Hospitality eAuthority (Summer 2011).pdf

Prepare Now: Hospitality Industry Draws U.S. Labor Department's Focus

Recently U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division officials unofficially announced the Department's "Hotel and Motel Resort Pilot Initiative." Although no specific strategy or plan has been set forth for this investigation program, it is scheduled to begin in the agency's next fiscal year, which commences on Oct. 1, 2010. Under this initiative, the Division will target and audit hospitality employers in two areas—compliance with H2B requirements and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Hospitality eAuthority (Summer 2010).

The Wage & Hour Division's Crackdown on the Hospitality Industry; Hospitality Employment Lawsuit Summaries; Have Government Investigators Made a Reservation at Your Property? – Hospitality Employers Targeted for Immigration Compliance Reviews; Increase in OFCCP Audits Expected.

Avoiding Liability for Wage and Hour Violations in the Hospitality Industry (pdf).

Avoiding Liability for Wage and Hour Violations in the Hospitality Industry

Recent Hospitality Employment Lawsuits.

No industry provides more interesting fact patterns in employment discrimination lawsuits than the hospitality industry. And unfortunately, those interesting fact patterns tend to surface with some regularity. The following are summaries of recent employment lawsuits against hospitality employers. Such cases can be instructive to hospitality employers as they strive to minimize the risk of being subjected to similar claims.

Hospitality Industry Draws U.S. Labor Department's Focus.

Fisher & Phillips recently participated in a closed-door meeting with U.S. Wage and Hour Division officials in Washington, D.C. to discuss the Labor Department's "Hotel and Motel Resort Pilot Initiative." There appears to be no specific strategy or plan as yet for this investigative program, but it is scheduled to begin in the agency's next fiscal year, which commences on October 1, 2010. It is definite that the Division will target Hospitality employers on two fronts – compliance with both H2B requirements and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Hospitality Labor Letter: Box Score (March 2009).

During the last quarter of 2008 we were aware of 14 petitions filed against hospitality employers.

Hospitality Industry: Business Going To The Dogs?

Imagine a dream vacation package at a luxurious hotel in San Francisco, Palm Beach or Chicago – replete with in room massages, pedicures and turn down service – all for your canine companion! The hotel industry is now tapping into the billion dollars Americans spend on their pets every year.
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