Monthly Archives: November 2015

California Businesses 40% More Likely to be Sued by Employees


It’s time for California insurance agents to revisit their commercial clients’ liability portfolio.

According to a report released this week from Hiscox, businesses in the Golden State are 40% more likely than their peers to be sued by an employee. In fact, just four states – New Mexico, Nevada, Alabama and Washington, DC – outstrip California when it comes to employee lawsuits.

The reasons why are complicated, but report authors suggest that state laws going beyond federal guidelines are the most likely cause of discrepancies in the rate of employee lawsuits between states. When it comes to California, that means strict regulation around anti-discrimination and fair employment practices that subject businesses to higher scrutiny from workers.

Discrimination, as defined by these laws, comes in many forms including age (over age 40), disability, national origin, race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy) and genetic information (diseases or disorders in family medical history).

More clear is the effect such lawsuits have on businesses. According to Hiscox, the average legal dispute regarding an employment matter lasts 275 days and in 19% of cases, defendants are subject to a defense and settlement payment. When that happens, businesses can expect to bill their insurers an average $125,000 in claims while taking $35,000 in deductibles on themselves.

The report comes just months after a similar survey from Littler Mendelson, in which 57% of human resource and C-suit professionals said they expect workplace discrimination claims to become one of the top business risks in the next years.

The statistics are a serious argument in favor of ample employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) for California businesses. Without proper coverage, clients could end up on the hook for an extra $90,000, going by national averages. Inadequate limits could also cause a sting, though arguably less of one.

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Filed under Claims, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Preventing and Preparing for Terrorist Attacks


The current hostage situation at a Radisson Blu in Mali dredges up memories of the Mumbai, India terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, which targeted a number of buildings, including the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel and the Oberoi Trident Hotel. At the time, LODGING reported on how to prevent and prepare for such attacks with advice from Kyle Olson of the security consulting firm the Olson Group. In light of recent events, here are a few tips he shared that are still relevant today.


Routinely change up security patterns and practices, and make the fact that you do so apparent; this will create uncertainty in potential attackers, and encourage them to look for a more “reliable” victim. Remove information from your web sites that isn’t essential, but which makes you vulnerable. Instead of detailed floor plans, use generalized, simplified drawings that don’t provide information on exits and serviceways; make intelligence collection harder. Move furniture and display fixtures in public areas around, change things up outside the hotel and inside, so that it is more difficult for an attacker to choreograph movements. Train personnel—security and staff—to recognize the difference between someone killing time and timing a kill. And teach them what to do when they think they have identified a potential bad actor.


Objectively assess the hotel’s vulnerabilities, and routinely review that assessment, particularly in light of special/large events. “Red Team” how someone could attack and consider how to counter. Where do you shelter people? Is the staff trained to get people to safety/exits? Is the critical information that will be needed by public safety—guest registers, employee rosters, floor plans—readily at hand?


The hotel’s plan must also reflect the plans, procedures and, above all, the needs of the local response agencies. Are hotel security and management personnel trained in the terminology of the National Incident Management System (NIMS)? NIMS is the language the cops, firefighters, and Feds will be speaking in a crisis. Remember, if the management team in the hotel is not able to plug into the response by public safety agencies with both information and understanding of the procedures being used, they will be marginalized. If hotel leadership is not seen as part of the solution, they will be considered part of the problem. If they are not able to engage constructively, they will have no influence in shaping the outcome of their property. If, on the other hand, they are seen as bringing value, their counsel will be sought out and they will have a hand in managing events.


Hotel personnel need to practice what their actions would be in a serious incident. This means knowing the plan, understanding their roles, and testing that understanding in exercises. These do not need to be complex, but they do need to be serious opportunities to evaluate the readiness of the hotel’s team. Ideally, the hotel should invite local public safety personnel into the exercises, to play out their roles. Not only will this provide hotel personnel with a sense of what will be expected of them, but it will provide an opportunity for the hotel personnel to demonstrate that they take the challenge seriously and that they have something to offer.

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training, Uncategorized

What You Should Know Before Monitoring Your Employees and Guests


Employees can make or break businesses in the service industry. While customer service oriented employees create a luxurious experience at a lesser establishment, employees that don’t prioritize customer service can ruin a guest’s experience even at the most finely-appointed hotel.

However, managers and supervisors cannot always be present to recognize and reward desirable service practices, nor can they always be present identify and correct poor practices. With so many points of customer and employee interaction, surveillance is one of the most effective methods to safeguard employee safety and integrity, review employee performance, identify training points, and document “HR issues.” Of course, too much of a good thing can be a problem.

Employers must understand the difference between valid surveillance and illegal intrusions on privacy rights before taking advantage of video/audio recordings. This article aims to help employers stay on the right side of that fence.

1. What is a “Reasonable Expectation of Privacy”?

The law regarding privacy in the workplace was most recently defined by the California Supreme Court case in Hernandez v. Hillsides, Inc. The rule is subjective, yet straightforward—employers must not engage in any activities that would violate an employee’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This helps determine the degree to which a person can reasonably expect to be left unmonitored, but the problem is that it is a nebulous standard that relies on “widely accepted community norms.”

There are some obvious places an employee or guest will reasonably expect privacy, for example, in a bathroom stall. However, courts will look at several considerations to determine the reasonableness of an individual’s expectation of privacy, such as the customs, practices, and physical settings of the workplace. Other considerations include where the surveillance equipment will be placed, when it will be active, and who will have access to recorded data.

The time and place of activities is another important factor. This includes an inquiry into the physical layout of the area being monitored, whether the area is restricted access, limited from view, or reserved for performing bodily functions and other personal acts. On the other hand, if an area is open and accessible to coworkers or the general public, or work is performed in the area, employees are unlikely to have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Courts will also consider who has access to any recordings or videos to determine the severity of an alleged invasion of privacy. In fact, even if an employer collects monitoring information legitimately, an employer may be subject to liability if the information can be accessed by the wrong people. A non-managerial employee should not have access to a recording of his or her co-worker. If the purpose is to monitor customer service performance, only managerial employees should have access. For this reason, employers’ must carefully control who has access to any monitoring data.

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Filed under Employee Practices, Guest Issues, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Technology

Wifi blocking is illegal (FCC fines Hilton Hotels)


FCC takes two enforcement actions on WiFi

On November 2, 2015, the FCC issued two separate news releases on Wifi blocking. In one action, the FCC announced a $718,000 fine against M.C. Dean, one of the nation’s largest electrical contracting companies, for blocking personal mobile “hotspots” of convention visitors and exhibitors who tried to use their own data plans at the Baltimore Convention Center to connect to the Internet rather than paying M.C. Dean substantial fees to use the company’s Wifi service.

FCC fines WiFi hotspot provider M.C. Dean

According to the FCC, as the exclusive provider of Wifi access at the Baltimore Convention Center, M.C. Dean charges exhibitors and visitors as much as $1,095 per event for Wifi access. Last year, the Commission received a complaint from a company that provides equipment that enables users to establish hotspots at conventions and trade shows. The complainant alleged that M.C. Dean blocked hotspots its customers had tried to establish at the Baltimore Convention Center. After receiving the complaint, FCC Enforcement Bureau field agents visited the venue on multiple occasions and confirmed that Wifi blocking activity was taking place.

The Enforcement Bureau’s investigation found that M.C. Dean engaged in Wifi blocking at the Baltimore Convention Center on dozens of occasions in the last year. During the investigation, M.C. Dean revealed that it used the “Auto Block Mode” on its Wifi system to block consumer-created Wifi hotspots at the venue. The Wifi system’s manual describes this mode as “shoot first, and ask questions later.” M.C. Dean’s Wifi blocking activity also appears to have blocked Wifi hotspots located outside of the venue, including passing vehicles. The Commission charged M.C. Dean with violating Section 333 of the Communications Act by maliciously interfering with or causing interference to lawful Wifi hotspots.

FCC fines and warns Hilton

In a separate announcement, unrelated except as to the subject matter, the FCC proposed a $25,000 fine against Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. for “apparent obstruction of an investigation into whether Hilton engaged in the blocking of consumers’ Wifi devices”. A consumer complaint alleged that Hilton was blocking visitor’s Wifi in Anaheim, California in order to force them to pay a $500 fee to access Hilton’s Wifi. Other complaints alleged similar Wifi blocking at other Hilton-brand properties.

In November 2014, the FCC Enforcement Bureau sent Hilton a letter of inquiry requesting information concerning basic company information, relevant corporate policies, and specifics regarding Wifi management practices at Hilton-brand properties in the United States. After nearly one year, Hilton has failed to provide the requested information for the vast majority of its properties. The proposed fine and announcement to Hilton included a demand to immediately provide the essential information and documents about its Wifi practices, and warned that Hilton may face significantly higher fines for continued obstruction or delay.

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Technology

El Nino Property Preparedness Checklist


el nino

1. Property Ground Keeping: Make a general inspection of your entire yard area for dead trees or dead limbs, yard debris, outdoor furniture, or other objects that could be blown by El Nino storm winds. An afternoon spent tidying up the yard and either storing furniture and other loose items indoors or securing them can prevent a frantic scramble to collect items that have landed on your roof or in your neighbors’ yards.

2. Drains and Gutters: Make sure all drains and gutters are cleared of debris and functioning properly before the storm season. If buildings do not have gutters and drains, consider having them installed. Storm water runoff from impermeable sufaces (e.g., roofs, driveways, and patios) should be directed into a collection system to avoid soil saturation.

3. Roofs: Inspect your roof, or hire a roofing contractor, to check for loose tiles, holes, or other signs of wear and tear.

4. Retaining Walls: Visually inspect all retaining wall drains, surface drains, culverts, ditches, etc. for obstructions or other signs of malfunction, before the storm season, and after every storm event.

5. Slopes: Visually inspect all sloped areas for signs of gullying, surface cracks, slumping etc. Also inspect patios, retaining walls, garden walls, etc. for signs of cracking or rotation. Such signs might be indications of slope movement and if you notice any problems, it would be prudent to have the site inspected by a geotechnical engineer, especially in California fire areas.

6. Storm Drains: Visually inspect nearby storm drains, before the storm season and after every rain; if the storm drains are obstructed, clear the material from the drain or notify the Department of Public Works or public agency responsible for drain maintenance.

7. Follow-up and Other Concerns: If, after taking prudent steps to prepare your property for winter storms, you still have some concerns about slope stability, flooding, mudflows, etc., consider stockpiling sandbags and plastic sheeting. The sandbags can be stacked to form a barrier to keep water from flooding low areas. Plastic sheeting and visqueen can be placed on slopes and secured with sand bags to prevent water from eroding the soil.

8. First Responders: Establish a relationship with a professional restoration company ahead of time. During a storm, restoration companies will be busy. If they know you already, there is a stronger chance you will be placed at the top of the list. Your corporate office may already have a list of vetted companies to call.

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Filed under Flood Insurance, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management