Labor & Employment: Think Locally, Act Accordingly

A New Mantra in Hospitality

By Dana Kravetz Firm 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.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.