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Josias Dewey

Earlier this year, the travel company Webjet announced it was in the process of converting a blockchain pilot it had developed into a commercial grade application. The blockchain-based application will be able to provide accurate information about hotel inventory, on a real-time basis, for hotels around the world. This article will discuss these and other possible use cases important to the hospitality industry, including their business justification. Beyond the explanation of use cases, the article highlights several legal considerations that hotel counsel will need to confront and consider as the technology is deployed, including intellectual property, privacy laws in the United States and the European Union and FinCen's current guidance on convertible virtual currencies and the potential relationship between money laundering and blockchain-based loyalty programs. Read on...

Steven D. Weber

There is a growing shortage of qualified and skilled hospitality employees. This shortage may lead hospitality brands to hire from competitors. While the idea of hiring a skilled employee with access to a competitor's information may be tempting, hiring from a competitor may have negative repercussions for the employee, the employer, and for the hospitality brand that is hiring them. To mitigate the risk of such a repercussion, a hospitality brand may wish to consider the below when hiring from a competitor. Read on...

Dana Kravetz

Hoteliers may ask: "isn't cannabis illegal under the federal law?" The short answer is yes, but that is a qualified response at best. As the scale tips toward marijuana becoming legal throughout the country, pot continues to be against the law federally. The resulting dichotomy between the relaxed view of cannabis and its extracts at the state level and the current federal position on marijuana is an interesting one. According to the Controlled Substance Act, by which the federal government regulates drugs, there is no recognized difference between cannabis, cocaine, heroin or LSD. Likewise, the CSA does not distinguish between the medical and recreational use of marijuana. So technically, pot is illegal and users (even those with valid prescriptions for the substance) can be arrested, convicted and sentenced to jail under the federal law as it stands. Read on...

Leon Fresco

There are two main challenges the hospitality industry faces from the new Administration's immigration policies - increased labor costs and decreased demand. With regard to labor, policies are likely to be promulgated that may remove millions of non-U.S. citizen workers from the U.S. workforce and make it far more challenging for the hospitality industry to obtain the labor needed operate its facilities. With regard to demand, policies have already been put in place, and are likely to continue to expand, that will reduce the demand from foreign visitors to enter the United States and consume hospitality resources. Read on...

Steven D. Weber

Competitive intelligence is a powerful tool used to maintain an advantage over competitors. A wealth of competitive intelligence can be obtained through public documents like public filings, earnings reports, and legal documents. Compiling, reviewing, and extrapolating the competitive intelligence from those documents takes time and money. Succumbing to the temptation to shortcut the necessary effort can have costly legal consequences. Hospitality industry companies must thus be wary of engaging in methods that cross legal and ethical boundaries. Companies must also be watchful of any efforts by their competitors to gather intelligence from them. Read on...

Dana Kravetz

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. Read on...

John Mavros

Given the increasing number of disability discrimination lawsuits, it is imperative that employers know and understand an employee's rights to leave and reasonable accommodation when injured or disabled. A workers compensation injury is not only covered by rules in the workers compensation system, but is typically also governed by requirements, obligations, and limitations under other important statutes. The Family Medical Leave Act, the American with Disabilities Act, and worker's compensation provide employees that are injured or disabled with various rights to leave or reasonable accommodation. This article will explore each law's parameters and the interplay among them. Read on...

Dana Kravetz

Pro-employer stars are aligning in Washington, D.C., that can only benefit the hospitality industry. What began with President Donald J. Trump's appointment of conservative Alexander Acosta as the United States Secretary of Labor, has been followed by his nomination of Republicans Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board - moves that are decidedly a boon to business. Under Secretary Acosta, the Department of Labor withdrew guidance put in place by the Obama administration on the joint employment issue, a positive step for hotel and resort owners, operators and franchisors. If confirmed, Messrs. Kaplan's and Emanuel's presence on the NLRB is certain to lead to the unraveling of various labor-related actions also deemed unfavorable to employers, hoteliers included. Read on...

Benjamin Ebbink

Responding to years of pressure from union advocates and their allies, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) has proposed a first-in-the-nation, industry-specific rule aimed at hotel housekeepers. If enacted, this proposal would greatly impact the industry in California (as well as operators who conduct business in multiple states including California). In addition, as California tends to lead the nation in employment and workplace safety standards, operators in other states should monitor this proposal closely - what happens in California may come to your state next! Read on...

Steven D. Weber

Taking measures to protect your hospitality organization's trade secrets before filing or defending against a lawsuit may significantly increase your organization's chances of obtaining a favorable result in any lawsuit related to the misappropriation of trade secrets. While there are many ways to protect information, hospitality organizations need to be educated on what the law applicable to them considers to be "reasonable" steps that provide the secrecy that is required under the circumstances. This article explores how some courts have interpreted what is reasonable or adequate protection of information such that the information may qualify as a trade secret. Read on...

John Mavros

Retaliation continues to be the most common claim brought against employers before governmental agencies and in the civil court system. According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces Federal labor laws, the EEOC received 42,018 charges of retaliation in 2016. That means that a retaliation claim was asserted in 45.9% of all charges submitted. This is more than discrimination based on race and more than discrimination based on disability. Even more concerning is the consistent uptick in retaliation charges, which have increased in number every year since 1997. So, what can employers do to protect themselves against this ever-growing threat? Read on...

Dana Kravetz

Eighteen months since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revised its standard for the imposition of joint employer liability, and hoteliers remain in a state of legal limbo, unsure what 2017 and beyond have in store on the issue. For those hotel and resort operators whose best response to the question, "how should we continue to move forward in the wake of BFI?" is a shrug of the shoulders, a current scorecard for your consideration. The NLRB shook the hotel franchisor/franchisee landscape with its jaw-dropping Browning-Ferris Industries of California (BFI) decision back in August 2015, which drastically eased the criteria for a company to be considered a joint employer. Read on...

Albert Pucciarelli

There are three options in alternative dispute resolution. Mediation, arbitration and expert determination. The third option - expert determination - whereby the parties who have been unable to resolve a dispute generally concerning a specific, technical matter, look to a specifically qualified individual to decide the matter for them. When we think about alternative dispute resolutions, our first thoughts are likely go to mediation and arbitration. This article, however, discusses the third option - expert determination. Read on...

John Mavros

Tip-pooling is a common method for restaurants and similar service businesses to allow back of the house staff and others to share in tips received from customers. However, the US Department of Labor's regulations and recent rulings by the Ninth Circuit have effectively made tip pooling a thing of the past. This article will explore the current state of tip-pooling laws and the effect that Donald Trump's pick for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, may have on tip-pooling and other regulations in the years to come. Read on...

Steven D. Weber

Many of today's hospitality consumers are not only looking for a place to rest their head, but also for a one-of-a-kind experience. If the ingredients for such an experience are stored on computers, in e-mails, in manuals, or even in the heads of employees, then they are susceptible to misappropriation. The risk of misappropriation is compounded by the ease by which employees today may misappropriate those trade secrets by using their smart devices to take photographs, send e-mails, and transfer files. Waiting until the unthinkable happens is unacceptable. Read on...

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Coming up in March 2020...

Human Resources: Confronting a Labor Shortage

With the unemployment rate at its lowest level in decades (3.7%), what has always been a perennial problem for human resource professionals - labor shortage - is now reaching acute levels of concern. It is getting harder to find and recruit qualified applicants. Even finding candidates with the skills to succeed in entry-level positions has become an issue. In addition, employee turnover rates remain extremely high in the hotel industry. As a result of these problems, hotel HR managers are having to rethink their recruitment strategies in order to hire the right talent for the right job. First, hotels have been forced to raise their wages and offer other appealing perks, as a way to attract qualified candidates. Secondly, HR managers are reassessing their interviewing techniques, focusing less on the answers they receive to questions and more on observable behavior. Part of this process includes role-playing during the interview, so that the recruiter can gauge how a candidate works through specific problems and interacts with other team members. Additionally, some HR managers are also creating internal talent pools as a way to address labor shortages. Instead of utilizing department resources to find new hires with specific skills for needed positions, hotels are cultivating talent pools internally and preparing their employees to assume leadership roles whenever the time comes. They are also placing greater emphasis on a company culture that is more performance-based, as a way to curb employee turnover, increase employee satisfaction, and assure higher levels of customer service. Finally, recognizing the importance of employee retention as a way to lessen the impact of a tight labor market, some HR managers are instituting generous reward programs in order to retain their top performers. The March Hotel Business Review will explore what some HR professionals are doing to address these and other issues in their departments.