December FOCUS: Hotel Law

December, 2020

Hotel Law: Protecting Guest Privacy

Every business is obligated to protect their customers from identity theft but unfortunately, data breaches have become all too common. In an effort to protect a guest's right to privacy and to safeguard their personal data, the European Union passed a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that could hold hotels legally liable for any breaches that expose a customer's sensitive personal information. Though the GDPR only pertains to EU citizens' data, any international business that mishandles their data can be legally responsible. Another legal issue of concern is the fight involving hotel "resort fees." Several states attorney generals have recently filed suit against two major hotel chains in an effort to litigate this practice. Their suit alleges that these companies are "engaged in deceptive and misleading pricing practices and their failure to disclose fees is in violation of consumer protection laws." The suit seeks to force the hotel chains to advertise the true price of their hotel rooms. There are several other legal issues that the industry is being forced to address. Sexual harassment prevention in the workplace is still top of mind for hotel employers-particularly in New York and California, which now statutorily require harassment training. Hotels and motels in California will also soon be required to train all their employees on human trafficking awareness. Immigration issues are also of major concern to hotel employers, especially in the midst of a severe labor shortage. The government is issuing fewer H2B visas for low-skilled workers, as well as J-1 visas for temporary workers. Though there is little hope for any comprehensive immigration reform, hotel lobbying groups are actively seeking legal remedies to alleviate this problem. These are just a few of the critical issues that the December issue of the Hotel Business Review will examine in the area of hotel law. 

This month's feature articles...

Ronald Schirtzer

The question of how to balance the desire to return seemingly healthy employees to the workplace with concerns about the safety and welfare of other employees and customers continues to plague employers as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. While there is no "one size fits all" answer to this question, there are resources and best practices that hotel owners and operations can utilize to reduce their risk. Ronald Schirtzer and Steven Gonzalez of Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial offer their insight. READ MORE

Jerome G. Grzeca

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States, the Trump administration immigration policies contributed to steep labor shortages in the hospitality industry. As a result of the pandemic, President Trump has since raised additional barriers that make it more challenging for hotels to employ foreign nationals, who make up a substantial portion of U.S-based hotel workers. READ MORE

Steven D. Weber

Does COVID-19 (coronavirus) afford hospitality industry operators relief from their contractual obligations? Hospitality industry operators are feeling the impact of coronavirus. The question may arise as to whether the coronavirus affords hospitality industry operators relief from their contractual obligations. In some cases, those contractual obligations may have arose months or years before coronavirus. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer for all hospitality industry operators and, thus, hospitality industry operators should consider taking steps to examine their options, including but not limited to, the steps set forth below. READ MORE

John Mavros

After an unprecedented 2020, many are wondering when the COVID-19 pandemic will finally be over. With recent announcements of potentially viable COVID-19 vaccines, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. However, a post-pandemic "normal" for hotel employers could include questions about mandatory vaccination policies. This article provides an overview of the issues surrounding vaccination of employees that hotel employers will need to think about next year. READ MORE

Gregory A. Hearing

The polarization of our country and the recent Presidential Election has left hotel and lodging industry employers facing a conundrum as to how they may keep employee political, cultural and social rhetoric out of the workplace environment. This article explores the speech rights of hotel and lodging employees and the extent to which employers may limit such employees' speech. READ MORE

Michael B. Newman

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have changed how they purchase products more extensively utilizing on-line ordering and home delivery. In response, restaurants and bars have pivoted to expand their businesses in this direction. To help struggling on-premise businesses, numerous states have temporarily or permanently relaxed restrictions on alcohol beverage sales making it easier for bars and restaurants to make this pivot. READ MORE

Maureen Beacom Gorman

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that the domain is capable of functioning as a trademark. Over the objections of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, the decision opens the door to other domain holders seeking Federal trademark protection of otherwise potentially generic brand names. The ruling shows how powerful consumer brand perception can be in obtaining trademark rights. READ MORE

Michael Wildes

COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to immigration and travel into the United States, and in turn has had a profound effect on the hospitality industry. While the challenges are daunting, by changing current immigration policies and implementing new safety guidelines, we can re-energize travel for business and tourism and resurrect the industry. READ MORE

Todd Soloway

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the hospitality landscape, and its effects on the industry are far from concluded. Diligent market participants can be poised to navigate this uncertainty and stand to reap substantial returns when the sector rebounds. The allure of these healthy future returns, however, should not give way to lax diligence, and a skeptical and thorough diligence process is critical to ensuring that stakeholders are best positioned to weather the current upheaval and benefit from future market upswings. READ MORE

Howard Russell

Liability waivers and limitation forms are commonly used by recreational facilities and tour companies, due in large part to the risks inherent in the use of recreational equipment and engaging in adventure tourism. Hotels and resorts are forced to balance the desire to offer guests amenities with the potential liability exposure created by providing access to the equipment involved. Howard Russell, office managing partner at Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, provides factors for hotels and resorts to consider when developing or using waiver forms, sign-in sheets or liability limitation clauses. READ MORE

Coming up in July 2022...

Hotel Spa: Now More Than Ever

In the aftermath of the global health crisis, there is a newfound appreciation for the need to be fit - both in body and mind - and hotels that provide a spa or wellness clinic will reap the rewards. What are clients seeking? Better health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep and mindfulness. It is no longer sufficient for spas to only offer massages or facials; clients are demanding more for the benefit of their overall well-being. For example, a medical spa might offer services such as botox, dermal fillers, body sculpting, and microdermabrasion. Other spas are emphasizing the importance of preventative therapeutics and are using technologies such as body scanners to evaluate their clients' health. Some spas are enlisting osteopaths, naturopaths, fitness coaches, yoga masters, even psychologists, to promote vitality, stress management, and emotional balance. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these and other advancements, and document how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.