Monthly Archives: November 2012

Hospitality Industry Employment Risks: Arizona Restaurant Settles EEOC “Pregnancy Discrimination” Lawsuit For $15,000; Servers Removed From “Sunday Football Schedule”

“…The EEOC’s lawsuit…charged that Sandbar instituted a policy of removing pregnant women from its Sunday schedule at its Peoria restaurant in an attempt to allegedly satisfy its male Sunday football EEOCcustomers… it believed its male customers did not wish to see pregnant women while they watched Sunday football games. Working on Sundays during football season was the most or one of the most lucrative shifts during the week for the pregnant employee…”

A Peoria, Ariz., restaurant will pay $15,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had alleged that West Sand, LLC, doing business as Sandbar Mexican Grill, unlawfully removed a pregnant employee from working on Sundays during football season because she was pregnant.

According to the EEOC, pursuant to this policy, Sandbar removed a pregnant woman from its lucrative Sunday schedule, causing her a significant loss of income. Sandbar denied the discrimination.

Sandbar Mexican Grill will pay $15,000 to the female employee to resolve this EEOC case. Under the consent decree settling the suit, Sandbar also must also (1) provide anti-discrimination training for all employees who work at its Peoria location; (2) review and revise, if necessary, its policies to ensure they prohibit sex and pregnancy discrimination as well as retaliation and ensure a strong and clear commitment to a workplace free of such bias; (3) investigate allegations of sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation promptly, fairly, reasonably, and effectively and ensure that appropriate corrective action is taken; and (4) post a notice that sex and pregnancy discrimination -or retaliation for complaining about it – is unlawful.

“Pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent problem in the 21st-century workplace,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “Employers cannot disadvantage the terms and conditions of a pregnant employee’s work to satisfy an assumed customer preference about the physical appearance of employees, which is likely untrue in any event.”

EEOC District Director Rayford Irvin added, “The EEOC will continue to be vigilant in rooting out pregnancy discrimination. This type of unlawful exclusion is never a winning game plan.”

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Employment Practices Liability, Insurance, Labor Issues, Liability, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Guest Satisfaction: Hotels Must Develop And Facilitate A “Mobile Device Strategy” That Pays “Careful Attention To Guests’ Needs”

“…Given the rapid move to mobile devices by travelers, (hotels must) develop a “mobile strategy” that facilitates the use of mobile devices to make sure a hotel is noticed during a mobile search–and gets the business. Hotels must find a way to become part of guests’ mobile ecosystem, in part by paying more careful attention to guest needs…”

Two new publications from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) at the School of Hotel Administration outline technology issues and the effects of social media on the hospitality industry. A study by Cornell’s Chris Anderson confirms what hospitality operators have long suspected–social media reviews drive hotel reservations.

One particular value of analytics is that they can highlight and resolve problems with guest satisfaction that may not show up in conventional guest surveys. Hotel operators are aware that their property needs to appear near the top of web search results, and analytics can present techniques for making this happen, such as connecting the hotel with local attractions or events.

  • First, he documented the increasing influence of TripAdvisor, as the number of reviews consulted by consumers prior to booking a hotel room has steadily increased over time.
  • Second, an analysis of transactional data from Travelocity illustrated that a 1-point increase on Travelocity’s 5-point scale allows the hotel to increase its price by 11.2 percent and still maintain the same occupancy or market share.
  • Third, by matching ReviewPRO’s Global Review IndexTM with STR’s hotel sales and revenue data, Anderson’s analysis finds that a 1-percent increase in a hotel’s online reputation score leads up to a 0.89-percent increase in a hotel’s average daily rate (ADR), as well as an occupancy increase of up to 0.54 percent and up to a 1.42-percent increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR).

Perhaps most critically, customer reviews have now become a major discriminating point for customers’ determination of a hotel’s quality. Whereas price used to be used for that purpose, customers now put a greater weight on user-generated content on social media sites. Surprisingly, the fashion industry may be a model for how to use social media to promote hotel sales. People like to hear comments on how they look in a new outfit, so the issue is how to translate that kind of interaction to a restaurant meal or hotel stay.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Issues, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Technology, Training

Hospitality Industry Health Risks: Illinois Restaurant Connected To “Salmonella Contamination Through Human Transmission” Closed Down; Employees Must Be Cleared To Work

“…the (restaurant) was found to have a suspected connection to the salmonella cases…the health department discussed the situation with the franchise ownership, at which time they chose to voluntarily close in an abundance of caution…the link does not seem to be a certain food, but rather human transmission…”

A McDonald’s eatery in Bloomington, Ill. in McLean County was shuttered before the Thanksgiving weekend as investigators look into a suspected case of salmonella contamination. It remains closed. writes that a range of confirmed salmonella cases were reported at several different restaurants in Central Illinois between October 18 and November 11, and “substantial information connecting the [McDonald’s] to the cluster of salmonella cases was discovered last week.” Investigators believe the sickenings were a result of human transmission rather than a specific food item.

Every employee at the McDonald’s is being tested and the restaurant will not reopen until enough staff have been cleared to work.

“People that are sick, they know they’re sick,” Simon said. “They’ve been sick for a period of time.” For about a week, these individuals have been suffering from particularly nasty cases of Salmonella Stanley, a rare strain that Food Safety News writes is rare outside of Southeast Asia and usually appears only in people who have traveled there.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Food Illnesses, Health, Labor Issues, Maintenance, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Property Risks: Florida Hotel Room Fire Caused “Box On Top Of Stove Burner”; Water Damage From Sprinkler System

“…someone had placed a box on top of a stove burner and then turned the burner on. The box caught fire and activated the hotel’s sprinkler system, which put out the fire…the sprinkler system drenched the top floor and water seeped down to the first floor, which could have compromised the hotel’s electrical systems…”

The Value Place hotel at the corner of Racetrack Road and Eglin Parkway was evacuated after a small fire started in a room on the second floor about 4:20 p.m. Monday.

Firefighters made sure everyone was cleared out of the hotel and then stayed at the scene until about 9 p.m. to make sure there were no immediate electrical issues that could start another fire.

The hotel’s occupants were sent to other hotels in the area overnight until an electrician can come today to make sure the electrical system is working properly.

Most of the damages the hotel sustained were from the sprinkler water, although there was a small amount of damage from the fire, Wagner said.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Claims, Fire, Insurance, Maintenance, Training

Hospitality Industry Security Risks: Recent Texas Hotel Room Robberies Linked To “Electronic Lock Hacking”; Thefts Involving Digital Devices Expected To “Explode Nationally”

“…the Houston Hyatt may not be the only site hit with the Onity hack. An alert published by the insurance firm Petra Risk Solutions in October claimed that “several” hotels in Texas have had their locks opened with Brocious’ technique. Todd Seiders, a former Marriott security director who now works as director of risk management at Petra, says he spoke with the general manager of one of those hotels, who knew of at least three Texas hotels affected in total…”

“…hotels with Onity locks need to either shell out for Onity’s circuit board fix or at least block access to their locks’ ports, says Todd Seiders of Petra Risk Solutions–he estimates that more than 80% of his customers have implemented a fix since August, but says that many more hotels around the world may not have been so careful…”

Whoever robbed Janet Wolf’s hotel room did his work discreetly. When Wolf returned to the Hyatt in Houston’s Galleria district last September and found her Toshiba laptop stolen, there was no sign of a forced door or a picked lock. Suspicions about the housekeeping staff were soon ruled out, too—-Wolf says the hotel management used a device to read the memory of the keycard lock and told her that none of the maids’ keys had been used while she was away.

Two days after the break-in, a letter from hotel management confirmed the answer: The room’s lock hadn’t been picked, and hadn’t been opened with any key. Instead, it had been hacked with a digital tool that effortlessly triggered its opening mechanism in seconds. The burglary, one of a string of similar thefts that hit the Hyatt in September, were real-world cases of a theoretical intrusion technique researchers had warned about months earlier—one that may still be effective on hundreds of thousands or millions of locks protecting hotel rooms around the world.

Last month Houston police arrested 27-year-old Matthew Allen Cook and charged him with theft in a September 7th break-in at the Hyatt House Galleria. Police also listed Cook as a suspect in the theft from Wolf’s room four days later and that of another guest at the hotel. Cook, who has a prior history of arrests for thefts and burglary, was identified when an HP laptop stolen from one of the hotel rooms was found in a local pawn shop, where staff helped police to identify him.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Guest Issues, Insurance, Liability, Maintenance, Management And Ownership, Technology, Theft

Hospitality Industry Health Risks: Tennessee Restaurant Employees Offered “Free Vaccines” By Non-Profit Group; Lack Of Health Insurance And Risks Of Contracting Flu Cited

“… healthcare professionals with The Shot Nurse have been visiting hundreds of Memphis area restaurants offering free vaccines for employees made possible with funding from Serving Memphis. Restaurant workers were chosen for the campaign for a number of reasons. They frequently lack health insurance, or work multiple jobs making it difficult to find time to get vaccinated. Also, their work with the general public puts restaurant employees at greater risk to contract the flu…”

Getting sick hurts restaurant workers in another place: Their pocketbook. “In this industry, you live off each day of work,” Hafford said.

So far this year, Pietri estimates she’s surprised more than 200 restaurants and injected 430 workers with the flu vaccine. The registered nurse works for The Shot Nurse, which would charge $25 per injection. But that expense is being born by three people who either own restaurants or have had family in the business: Michael Uiberall, Wight Boggs and Sandy Robertson.

They are paying for the shots through their new nonprofit, Serving Memphis.

“We’re trying to target people who are in minimum-wage positions,” said Boggs, an owner of Huey’s restaurants. They’re often young adults, she said, adding, “We’re trying to get them to start thinking about a healthy lifestyle early on.”

The goal is to provide 500 flu shots this year. “Next year, we hope to do 800 shots,” said Uiberall, a partner in the CPA firm Watkins Uiberall.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Labor Issues, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Property Risks: Kansas Restaurant Fire Starts In Grease Fryers And Spreads To Attic; $150,000 In Structural And Contents Damage

“…The fire started in the grease fryers area, quickly got into the building’s attic area…of the estimated $150,000 loss, $100,000 was structural damage, the other $50,000 with the building’s contents…”

A grease fire Sunday afternoon caused an estimated $150,000 in damage to a Mexican-food restaurant on the city’s west side. Topeka Fire Department crews were sent about 3:15 p.m. to the Taco John’s restaurant, 1015 S.W. Wanamaker, on a report of a fire.

Capt. Greg Degand, acting battalion chief for the Topeka Fire Department, said at the scene that the initial call indicated the fire was under control. Degand, who was first on the scene, said he saw heavy smoke coming out of the Taco John’s flue area as he approached the restaurant.

However, when he entered the building, Degand said he saw flames in the kitchen area extending from the floor to ceiling. Because grease was involved in the fire, crews at first used a dry chemical extinguisher to get the blaze under control.

For more:

1 Comment

Filed under Claims, Fire, Insurance, Liability, Maintenance, Management And Ownership

Hospitality Industry Crime Risks: North Carolina Motel Damaged After Meth Lab Explodes Inside Room

Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation donned chemical gear to sift through the rubble of the motel room to determine the cause of the explosion. Investigators said some of the materials used to make methamphetamine are highly flammable.

The front of a Dudley motel blew out early Friday when a methamphetamine lab inside one of the rooms exploded, authorities said. The explosion occurred at about 4:15 a.m. at the Old Goldwater Motel, 3428 U.S. Highway 117 Alternate. The Mar-Mac Fire Department responded to the motel, but authorities said the building sustained little or no fire damage.

Valentine Morales, who lives at the motel with his family, said the explosion awakened him as he slept on a sofa. He said his first thoughts were for his wife and three children sleeping in the next rooms.

Two of the people injured in the blast ran to Jeffrey Aultman’s house nearby for help.

“It scared me. I was getting ready to go out the door, and it was bang, bang, bang, and it shook me up,” Aultman said, noting that he initially thought the men at his door had been in a vehicle wreck.

Two of the injured drove themselves to Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, authorities said. Wayne County EMS took two more people to the hospital.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Guest Issues, Injuries, Liability, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Workers’ Compensation Insurance Risks: Tennessee Supreme Court Awards Restaurant Manager Benefits At “Six Times His Medical Impairment” From Electrocution Injuries

“…The Tennessee Supreme Court held that a manager was entitled to benefits at the statutory maximum of six times his medical impairment…the manager was denied a meaningful return to work when he was terminated in retaliation for filing his claim. The manager’s age, education, training, work experience, and limitations warranted the six-times multiplier…”

A co-manager for a fast food restaurant was repairing a heating element used to keep food warm. Someone plugged the heating element into an electrical outlet. An electrical shock caused the manager to lose consciousness. He suffered from burns on his hands, chest pains, headaches, and memory loss. He repeatedly asked his supervisor to pay his medical expenses and authorize medical care for his symptoms. The district manager said he would “take care of it,” but the bills remained unpaid. The manager filed a workers’ compensation claim, and the restaurant was fined for failing to timely report the incident. Days after the claim was filed, his supervisor “vulgarly expressed his anger” about the claim. Within weeks, the manager, who had never received a reprimand, received two reprimands and was later terminated.

A neurologist diagnosed the manager with a migraine condition and epilepsy and opined that the conditions were caused by the electrical shock. The neurologist found that he reached maximum medical improvement with a 10 percent impairment to the body as a whole. A vocational expert opined that the manager suffered a 65 percent vocational disability based on his age, limitations, work history, and the local labor market. The manager was unable to find gainful employment other than occasional “odd jobs.” The Tennessee Supreme Court held that he was entitled to benefits at the statutory maximum of six times his medical impairment.

The court rejected the restaurant’s argument that the maximum multiplier possible was meant to punish it for mishandling the claim rather than an assessment of disability.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Claims, Injuries, Insurance, Labor Issues, Liability, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Employment Risks: Hotel “Off-Duty Access Policies” Cannot Be At “Management Unlimited Discretion” According To National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) Decision

In a 2-1 decision, the (National Labor Relations Board) struck down a Marriott property’s policy prohibiting off-duty employees from accessing the hotel property without a manager’s approval. In doing so, the board evaluated Marriott’s rule in light of well-established case law dating back four decades.

Many hotels maintain off-duty access policies that limit but do not prohibit employees from accessing the hotel property during off-duty hours. The policy might require an employee to obtain advance permission from management and/or limit access to employer-sponsored events. Such a policy seems reasonable.

The hotel or resort might want to grant access to employees as an employee benefit. Employee discounts, access to restaurants, golf courses, spa facilities and ski slopes, for example, are valuable employee benefits. Of course, the hotel needs to balance legitimate business concerns, such as maintaining the security of its premises and guests, as well as assuring its guests have ready access to facilities.

Under that 1976 case, the NLRB established a three-part test for whether off-duty access restrictions are legal. For an off-duty access rule to be valid under that test, the policy must:

1) limit access only to the interior of the facility and other working areas;

2) be clearly disseminated to employees; and

3) apply to any off-duty employee seeking access for any reason and not just those engaging in union activity.

In the Marriott case, issued 28 September, the board held that because the rule was not a uniform ban on access but instead gave management unlimited discretion to determine when to permit access, it could lead employees to believe they could not engage in union organizing or other protected activity without a manager’s approval. The board struck down the rule as unlawful and said a “narrow, extremely specific” off-duty access rule might be deemed valid. However, it provided no guidance as to what type of rule is acceptable.

This decision puts hospitality employers in an untenable position. The hotel has one of three options:

1) adopt a policy limiting all off-duty access, even for legitimate reasons such as picking up a paycheck or attending special events;

2) grant employees access to the property without any restrictions; or

3) prepare a policy with narrow exceptions for special circumstances and hope the policy survives legal scrutiny.

For more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Labor Issues, Liability, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training