Monthly Archives: August 2010

Hospitality Industry Health Insurance Trends: Large Employers Are Starting To Require Employees To Disclose “Unhealthy Habits” With Resulting Health Insurance Premiums Being Higher Than “Healthier” Workers

“…Navistar Inc. executives turned up the heat on smokers five years ago as part of a pioneering move to improve employee health and rein in medical costs…”

     Smoking employees are now required to disclose their habit during the open enrollment period for health insurance or, if they fail to truthfully answer, risk violating the company’s ethical business policy.

Some critics consider it intrusive and discriminatory to penalize unhealthy behaviors like smoking and reward people for taking positive actions such as losing weight. Nevertheless, other employers—fed up with rising obesity rates and related health costs—are following Navistar’s lead. Nearly two-thirds of large employers either have a smoking penalty or plan to impose one during the next three to five years, according to a 2010 Hewitt Associates Inc. survey of nearly 600 employers.

As long as Navistar employees continue to light up, they pay higher premiums—$50 more monthly. The policy applies only to nonunion workers, slightly more than half of Navistar’s 11,000 U.S. employees; union health benefits fall under a separate contract. Navistar realized the smoking surcharge could be controversial. “We were a little hesitant that we were setting ourselves up for some employee complaints,” says Dawn Weddle, wellness and behavioral health manager at Warrenville, Illinois-based Navistar, which makes trucks, RVs and other vehicles. Feedback was generally positive, with some “rumblings” but no formal complaints, Weddle says. “You have to remember: The majority of employees don’t smoke.”

     The insurance premium penalty is helping to reduce the number of smokers even more. The percentage of employees reporting that they smoke has declined from 10.3 percent in 2005 to 8.6 percent in late 2009.

         In Alabama, however, state officials have chosen a positive incentive to encourage high-risk employees to consult a doctor or seek other medical help. The state provides a $25 monthly discount on health insurance premiums to all employees who receive such wellness screenings, whether their medical risks are high or low. But employees identified as high risk must take an additional step, such as seeing a doctor or enrolling in a wellness program, to retain that discount. Alabama decided not to tie the incentive to specific health goals but rather to simply try to motivate employees to seek medical feedback, says William Ashmore, chief executive officer of the State Employees’ Insurance Board in Alabama.

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Hotel Industry “Art Insurance” Issues: Hotels Are Increasingly Hanging “Real Artwork” In Lobbies And Hallways To Please More Discriminating Clientele

“Hoteliers are not only trying to come up with a theme or a style that attracts customers, but they are approaching it in a much more professional and involved way,” said Sean Hennessey, chief executive of Lodging Investment Advisors, a consulting firm in Valhalla, N.Y.

“It used to be that you could get away with just slapping something up in the lobby,” he added, “but more and more customers are looking and evaluating it much more closely.”

For the James, meeting that demand has meant trying to reflect the artistic microclimate of SoHo. Though many of the artists who once made the area a creative mecca have fled, an emerging art scene is still represented through nonprofit institutions there that support artists and show their work.

Denihan Hospitality Group, which is developing the hotel, operates another James Hotel in Chicago that is also dedicated to emerging art. At the Surrey, one of its New York hotels, work by established names like Jenny Holzer, Claes Oldenburg and William Kentridge nods to its location on East 76th Street, near major art showcases like the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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Hotel Industry Pool Safety Risks: “Balconing” Has Caused Over 30 Serious Accidents In Europe And Might Escalate At American Hotels

“…with four dead and more than 30 serious accidents in just two months, the dangerous craze of jumping from balconies into the hotel pool is getting completely out of control…”

‘Balconing’ – as it has been dubbed – is a growing problem in Spanish resorts, with the number of accidents already triple that of previous summers.

And in the space of just 12 crazy hours, the emergency services had to rush three people to hospital after three different jumps.

Most of the victims are young Brits, although the craze is also popular with Spaniards and Germans.

Internet video site YouTube has come under fire after countless clips of people leaping from balconies were uploaded in recent months.

According to a hotel receptionist in Alcudia, Mallorca, groups of drunken youngsters return after a night out and try to keep the party going by taking part in the deadly stunt.

“This year it has become a real plague,” she said.

According to Sebastian Darder, a spokesman for the Balearic Islands’ hoteliers’ association, all reported incidents of balconing were the result of drunkenness.

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Hospitality Industry Employment Risk: Management Must Insure Compliance With H-2B Visa Program Requirements And Fair Labor Standards Act

 “…the hospitality industry is “always on the radar” for potential violations because it employs large numbers of H-2B and younger workers…”

In June and July, employment law firms began issuing legislative alerts to hospitality industry clients, warning them of plans by Wage and Hour Division officials to launch investigations of the hotel and motel industry beginning Oct. 1.

These investigations will center on compliance with H-2B visa program requirements and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The H-2B visa program allows businesses needing one-time, seasonal, peak-load, or intermittent staffing to use foreign workers as temporary labor.

Dolores Quesenberry, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Labor, told Carolina Journal that she was unaware of any increased complaints, but did say the hospitality industry is “always on the radar” for potential violations because it employs large numbers of H-2B and younger workers.

Paul Stone, president of North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, told CJ that the lodging and restaurant industry is North Carolina’s second largest employer, with approximately 500,000 workers, accounting for 10 percent of the state’s total workforce. Of the 1,600 hotels in North Carolina, only a few employ H-2B workers, Stone said, mostly because the program is so restrictive. Before hiring an H-2B worker, for example, an employer must certify there are no domestic applicants qualified for the position.

Stone wonders why hospitality employers are being targeted with the economy mired in recession. Wage and hour audits and similar investigations disrupt operations and increase costs, especially if an employer has to engage outside counsel or auditors, said Stone.

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Hotel And Spa Industry Safety Risk Management: New Pool And Spa Codes To Be Released In 2012 By International Code Council (ICC) And Assoc. Of Pool And Spa Professionals (APSP)

“This new pool and spa code in particular will impact safety as soon as it is put into use because it will become part of codes that are already adopted in 50 states.”

The International Code Council (ICC) and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) announced that they will collaborate on a comprehensive pool and spa code for release in 2012. The new code will comprise the most-current thinking on pool and spa safety, energy efficiency and best practices. It will be the only code that addresses all types of pools, spas and hot tubs — both public and residential — as well as aquatic recreation facilities.

“The ICC develops codes that focus on keeping people safe where they live, work and play,” said Jay Peters, Code Council Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas Group (PMG) Executive Director. “This new pool and spa code in particular will impact safety as soon as it is put into use because it will become part of codes that are already adopted in 50 states.”

This landmark code will draw on APSP’s ANSI-approved American National Standards for pools, spas, hot tubs and other recreational water along with ICC’s expertise in building-safety codes, fire-prevention codes and energy-efficiency codes for residential and commercial construction. The provisions of the code will increase consistency in pool and spa construction, maintenance and operation across the country and internationally.

“Finally, builders, manufacturers and code officials will have a uniform reference wherever the ICC codes are in use,” said Carvin DiGiovanni, Senior Director of Technical and Standards for APSP. “We are looking forward to getting started on the development of what promises to be the most comprehensive pool and spa code possible.”

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Hotel Industry Liability Risks: Hotel Guests’ 4-Year Old Child Finds “Condom” In Room And Family Has Retained Attorneys To File Suit Against Hotel Owners

Jones has since filed a report with the Atlanta Police Department and the family engaged lawyers to negotiate a settlement with the hotel. If no settlement is reached, the lawyer plans to file suit.

Wyndham Hotels said it was “disturbed to learn of the allegations,” but that the hotel in question was individually owned and operated. It has been sold since the incident occurred, the hotel chain said.

A 4-year-old boy was being tested for sexually transmitted diseases after he found a used condom in an Atlanta hotel room and tried to blow it up, thinking it was a balloon, his family said.

The boy found the condom in the sheets of a bed in the hotel where his family was staying, according to his grandmother Carmen Jones.

According to the statement, she then called hotel management and asked for alcohol and mouthwash for her grandson. The hotel manager came to the room, put on latex gloves and took the condom from her, citing “company policy.”

“He had his tongue in it,” Jones said in a statement released by her lawyers. “I immediately took it out of his mouth.”

The boy sickened and developed sores on his tongue not long after, Jones said. She took him to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta to have him tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes and HIV, a local CBS affiliate reported.

He had “little white blisters all on the top of his mouth, on his tongue, inside the mouth, inside the lip, the bottom lip. It was all over,” Jones told the CBS affiliate.

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Hospitality Industry Risk Management: Management Must Train Staff To HALT If They Are “Hungry, Angry, Lonely And Tired” To Prevent Accidents, Mistakes And Bad Public Relations With Guests


"...Whenever (hotel employees) are hungry, angry, lonely or tired...(they) need to stop, HALT! In this state of being hungry, angry, lonely and tired (employees) are much more vulnerable to getting... buttons pushed...AND BAD THINGS ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAPPEN... "

Many hotel guests have all of these conditions going on upon arrival at the front desk. They have traveled a great distance, they are tired, and they may have not eaten in hours and as a result are angry or grumpy.  Any delays or unpleasant encounters will send this guest into a full fledge melt down going off on employees who may also be vulnerable. 

 In your hotel consider what investment goes into getting a guest to call and book a stay at your location?  How much advertising was done?  How many staff hired? How much time and energy in training with staff, operators and front-line?

How much patience and time was given to gain that guest trust?  Your building preparations and maintenance of the property? What did it take to have them call and give you their credit card and put their money into your hotel or establishment? 

Considering this investment is significant when in a moment that guest can be turned away by a negative encounter with one of your employees or managers. 

What took months and perhaps thousands of dollars to build can be lost in a moment. Your hotel and its ultimate success is only as good as its weakest employee. That might be a scary thought!  But even the best employee can be worn thin and not recognize their vulnerable condition.

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