Monthly Archives: November 2013

Hospitality Industry Property Risks: North Carolina Hotel Suffers “Extensive Water Damage” From Fire Sprinklers Activated By Small Heating Unit Fire

“…Most of the damage was from the sprinkler system…once a fire activates the system, the sprinklers will continue to pour water (up to 40 Hotel Water Damagegallons per minute) until someone shuts them off…workers from a disaster recovery service, hauled fans and dehumidifiers to the damaged rooms. Workers had torn up soaked carpets from several of the rooms and at least half of one of the hallways…”

A small fire in a failed heating unit in an unoccupied room at the Holiday Inn on Glenwood Avenue on Thursday night caused extensive damage, but not because of the flames. Fire sprinklers doused the entire 10th floor of the building, soaking carpets, furniture and wallpaper. Damage extended to an estimated 25 percent of the building, according to a Raleigh Fire Department report.

About 70 firefighters arrived at the hotel just before 9 p.m. Thursday, but the sprinklers had already quenched the flames. No one was injured.

“They are designed to put a fire out, and the only way they can do that is to flow a lot of water,” Hicks said.

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Filed under Fire, Guest Issues, Insurance, Maintenance, Structural Damage

Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: “How To Serve Alcohol At A Company Party Without Getting Sued” By Tom Posey Education Partner II

How to Serve Alcohol at a Company Party Without Getting Sued

By Tom Posey, Partner, Faegre Baker Daniels

With the holidays right around the corner, many businesses will host festive company outings and events for their employees, including parties at the office—and often these celebrations include alcohol.

Employers need to understand the legal parameters of having alcohol in the workplace in order to establish a safe, responsible and enjoyable work environment for their employees. A few common questions from employers at this time of year are:

Some states have laws that govern “social host liability.”  Through these laws, bartenders or social hosts can be held liable for events that result from over-serving someone (e.g. accidents, injuries, etc.).  These laws would make the organization responsible for monitoring consumption and cutting off drinking by anyone who becomes intoxicated, so be aware of the laws in your jurisdiction.

If some of our employees are under the legal drinking age, can we still serve alcohol?

Employers must ensure that no one underage has access to alcohol. If alcohol is served to a minor, the employer can be subject to the same stiff fines and penalties that a store or bar that serves a minor would face.  Accordingly, if underage employees will be attending the party, employers must be vigilant in making sure that they are not served or allowed access to alcoholic beverages.

If an employee has too much to drink and has an accident, it is still covered by our insurance, right?

Employers who provide alcohol to their employees may unwittingly negate coverage under their general liability insurance policies and be on the hook for costs associated with alcohol-related incidents or injuries, so be aware of the limitations and exceptions applicable to your organization’s employee-related policies.

Any other legal risks the organization might face if alcohol will be served at holiday functions?

There is an increased risk of sexual harassment-related complaints that result from company events where alcohol is present (e.g. the stereotypical office holiday party HospitalityLawyer Converge Solutionsthat is always satirized in movies and TV shows).  Remember that even though the function might be held outside normal working hours, employees are still afforded protection from harassment or other inappropriate conduct that might be directed at them by their colleagues.

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Filed under Employment Practices Liability, Insurance, Labor Issues, Liability, Risk Management, Training

Hospitality Industry Employment Solutions: “Gratuity Guide” Released By American Hotel & Lodging Association

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November 27, 2013 · 9:36 am

Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: Louisiana Restaurant Sued By Disabled Customer Injured By Heavy Door; “No Assisted Open Device, Proper Signage”

“..(the plaintiff) went to open the heavy door leading to the restroom (and) when it swung back, (it) scraped her left leg, knocked her walker out Hospitality Industry Injury Lawsuitsfrom under her and caused her to fall to the ground. The plaintiff asserts she was injured in the fall…The defendant is accused of not providing an assisted open device on the door, failing to provide signage notifying her the door was heavy and failing to act as a reasonable person…”

A disabled customer who alleges she was injured in a fall while trying to open a door at a local restaurant is suing. Rosalie Miller filed suit against Johnny Trauth’s Seafood Bistro LLC in the 24th Judicial District Court on Nov. 4.

Miller claims she was a customer at Johnny Trauth’s Seafood Bistro located at 2121 25th St. in Kenner.  An unspecified amount in damages is sought for severe injuries, pain and suffering and permanent disability.

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Filed under Guest Issues, Liability, Maintenance, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Technology Solutions: Hotels Increase Collection Of Guest Information With Social Media & Surveys To “Upgrade The Experience”

“…Like other luxury hotels, the Peninsula collects a cache of information about its customers, which is stored in a guest-preference database. Hotel Technology SolutionsBut it’s done with only one purpose: to upgrade the experience. It contains information about your favorite food, your preferred room and what side of the bed you sleep on…Experts will tell you it’s unfair to compare a hotel with a few hundred guests with a chain with tens of thousands. Maybe, maybe not. La Quinta Inn & Suites recently used a feedback-management platform to harvest information through social media and surveys to determine what guests thought of its breakfasts, which are included in the price of their stay…”

Airlines, car rental companies and hotels ought to spy on their customers more often. Collecting information about you to improve customer service — and only for that purpose — could return the American travel business to greatness.

That’s no coincidence, says Offer  Nissenbaum, managing director of the Peninsula Beverly Hills. “If you collect all the little details,” says Nissenbaum, “you can meet and exceed a guest’s expectations.”

Actually, figuring out which side of the bed you sleep on seems to be one of the hottest data points in the hotel business. The Ritz-Carlton, which also delivers  above-and-beyond service, notes your preferred side, says spokeswoman Allison Sitch. Why? Because that’s  where the staff will place a water bottle and other amenities, which means a lot when you roll out of bed in the morning.

The volume of data being collected by luxury hotel chains such as Ritz-Carlton or Peninsula might make an NSA agent blush. But the hotels gather it unapologetically, “as long as the data is being used to make the customer happy,” says Sitch.

The insights were sent directly to front-line employees and managers  for their feedback. La Quinta responded by adding signs and more prominently displaying the healthy foods they already offered, and customer approval rose.

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Hospitality Industry Employment Risks: Hawaii Restaurant Settles EEOC “Sexual Harassment And Retaliation” Lawsuit For $350,000; Young Female Workers Assigned Less Favorable Shifts

“…The federal agency filed suit in 2011, later amending its complaint to charge that at least 10 female staffers were sexually harassed by several male employees, Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionincluding managers…The agency further alleged that some employees were subjected to retaliation after complaining about the alleged harassment. The EEOC also alleged that the women were also treated less favorably than men in the workplace: they were passed over for promotions, assigned less favorable shifts and earned less than their male counterparts…”

La Rana Hawaii, LLC, doing business as Señor Frog’s, a popular Mexican-themed restaurant and bar in Honolulu, will pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of 13 female employees who were allegedly sexually harassed or retaliated against between 2007 and 2012, the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC alleged that the managers subjected employees to sexual comments, language and advances, and unwelcome physical contact. The alleged behavior violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. La Rana Hawaii, LLC dba Señor Frog’s & Altres, Inc., Case No. CV-11-00799 LEK BMK) after first attempting to resolve the matter through its conciliation process.

As part of the settlement announced today, the parties entered into a three-year consent decree requiring La Rana Hawaii, LLC to pay $350,000 to 13 female claimants. The company closed its Honolulu establishment in August 2012. Notwithstanding, if La Rana chooses to open another restaurant or chooses to reopen the Señor Frog’s in Hawaii, the consent decree requires substantial injunctive relief including the creation and distribution of an anti-harassment policy along with annual training for all restaurant employees to prevent future instances of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the agreement.

Altres Inc., a Hawaii staffing company, was contracted by La Rana Hawaii to provide human resources services and oversee the company’s non-management staff during the time in question. The EEOC also named Altres in its lawsuit; Altres previously settled with the EEOC for $150,000 and injunctive relief, including EEO training for its employees.

“Our young workers are all too often the targets of the most insidious forms of sexual harassment, which can spread like wildfire at work,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “Employers who fail to fulfill their moral and legal obligation to prevent and immediately stop the sexual abuse of its young workers will answer to the EEOC.”

Timothy Riera, local director for the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “The EEOC takes workplace harassment against young workers very seriously. Through our Youth@Work outreach, we aim to educate America’s next generation of workers on their right to work in an environment free of harassment and discrimination and their right to report such abuses without retaliation.”

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Hospitality Law Insider: “Duty Of Care” That Businesses Owe To Mobile Employees From Stephen Barth Of (Video) Education Partner IIIn the second episode of Hospitality Law Insider, Stephen Barth covers some essential items to consider when adapting your travel risk plan to meet duty of care obligations. Learn more about how to deal with medical issues, evacuation considerations, and civil unrest.

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