Labor & Employment: Think Locally, Act Accordingly

A New Mantra in Hospitality

By Dana Kravetz Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson, LLP | October 01, 2017

The matters weighing on the minds of hotel and resort owners and operators are many: average daily rates, occupancy levels, market penetration, revenue generation, operating costs, growth trajectories, tourism trends, customer service demands, real estate concerns, budget constraints, inventory management, cyber security and effective marketing strategies are a few of the major ones. Labor and employment issues are an unusually significant source of concern for hotel executives as well, demanding a disproportionate amount of their attention given the burdensome legal requirements imposed upon employers.

On the employment front, better days for hoteliers and corresponding trouble for their employees have been forecasted as a consequence of President Trump’s imprint upon the Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board. But the optimistic outlook for hotels and resorts, at least on the national stage, is tempered in many jurisdictions by state and local laws that are decidedly pro-labor. And beyond the enactment of employee-friendly legislation, local activism concerning a breadth of other issues – including hotel privacy – is also impacting the hospitality business. Taken together, it is worthwhile to address two questions of great importance within the industry: notwithstanding the messages emanating from Washington, D.C. that are sympathetic to business, what is happening at the grassroots level that relates to hotel and resort operations, and does local regulation even matter?

State and Local Ordinances

The minimum wage, paid family leave, employee discrimination and safety, tip credits, an employer's right to inquire about the salary history of job candidates, and the ability of police to search hotel guest registers are amongst the focus of ongoing state and local lawmaking that is keeping hoteliers on their toes. A brief survey:

Minimum Wage

In recent years, the minimum wage has been on the rise throughout the U.S. by virtue of ballot initiatives and legislation passed in several states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. Minimum wage increases have also been enacted by way of local ordinances in cities such as Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Oakland, Palo Alto, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Seattle, Tacoma and Washington, D.C.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.