Tag Archives: Arrest

Successful Education Session at CH&LA SoCal Conference

Petra Risk Solutions had a successful education session at CH&LA‘s SoCal Conference. Todd Seiders, CLSD, Director of Risk Management, presented “Today’s Safety & Security Challenges for Hotels”. Over 100 people attended! They walked away educated and with a better understanding on how to handle phone scams, human trafficking situations, renting hotel room to minors, ADA scams, and the recent Erin Andrews/ privacy ruling.  Todd CH&LA NoCal & SoCal conference

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Filed under Claims, Conferences, Crime, Guest Issues, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Hotel Restaurant, Insurance, Risk Management, Theft

Join Petra Risk Solutions at CH&LA’s California Conferences

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For more information on the Northern California Hotel & Lodging Conference, click here!

For more information on the Southern California Hotel & Lodging Conference, click here!

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Workplace Violence – How to Deal with a Disgruntled Ex-Employee

violence
You are an executive working intently in your office when your assistant calls and informs you that a disgruntled ex-employee has shown up at the facility with a weapon and is threatening violence.  Will you know what to do, or better yet, what not to do?

 

Workplace violence can be defined as any act that creates intimidating, hostile, and offensive or a threatening work environment through unwelcome words, actions or physical contact.  As we have seen on multiple occasions, workplace violence and active shooter occurrences have been on a steady incline in this country.  Are you and your company prepared?

There are two types of workplace violence that need to be taken into consideration. First is the external variety – criminal activity from a non-employee, client or customer.  Second is the internal variety of a problem employee, employee personal relationship, hostile individual due to disciplinary actions or a facility closing.  Be prepared by taking some very easy measures:

  • Have a  written policy that is known throughout your organization
  • Take the position of ‘no tolerance’ for this activity
  • Train employees and provide ongoing training
  • Make sure your plan protects first, then concentrates on compliance
  • Understand and effectively communicate the legal implications

The potential deadly situations are reasonably foreseeable and this should be the standard used for compliance and determination of liability. Understand what data you need to assist in the prevention of workplace violence.  You not only have a legal responsibility but the obligation to your workforce.  Negligent hiring, high-risk terminations, retention, security, and poor training open you and your organization to the possibility of a workplace violence incident.  Human resources plays a key role in your workplace violence plan through effective pre-employment screening, establishing discrete communications channels, an Employee Assistance Program and coordination with your security personnel regarding response plans.

Do not allow yourself to make these five critical mistakes:

  • Denial and avoidance
  • Not having a threat response plan
  • Acting too hastily
  • Lack of total workforce participation
  • Insufficient assessment process

Coordinate a case assessment team and make sure they understand their purpose, make-up, objectives, and documentation measures.  The need to recognize the behavioral warning signs that signal potential trouble and that evaluation of behavior is not ‘profiling’.

Protective measures include:

  • A facility security audit
  • Obtaining local crime statistics
  • Recording a history of incidents
  • Personnel training
  • General security awareness training
  • An established liaison with local law enforcement.

Remember, ignorance does not relieve an organization of responsibility.  In summation, an organization has a Duty of Care responsibility to their employees and must plan, train, recognize, manage and respond to this growing problem within the business community.

For more: http://bit.ly/1XAJN02

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Filed under Crime, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Labor Issues, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training

What the Erin Andrews Lawsuit Means for Hoteliers

erin andrews

A jury’s decision this week to award sportscaster Erin Andrews $55 million in a civil suit against her stalker and the owner and management company of the Nashville hotel in which the man secretly videotaped her will have repercussions for the hotel industry for years to come, sources said.

In 2008, Michael David Barrett recorded Andrews while she was nude through the peephole of her hotel guestroom at the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University. Barrett, who later pleaded guilty to felony stalking in 2009, discovered which room was Andrews’ and reversed the peephole in the door to see inside. The jury in Andrews’ civil suit found Barrett, as well as the owner of the hotel, West End Hotel Partners, and the management company, Windsor Capital Group, to be responsible.

Andrews had originally included Marriott International in her original suit; however, the court in Tennessee found that Marriott had no liability in the case, and dismissed it.

Stephen Barth, a professor of hospitality law at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston and founder of hospitalitylawyer.com, testified on behalf of the defense during the civil trial. The defendants in this case did what they were supposed to do, Barth said in an interview with HNN, and he believes that because the companies were focused and diligent on their policies, procedures and employee training, it gave the jury members pause during their deliberations.

With the outcome of the case, Barth stressed that just as before, it’s important for hoteliers to have the right policies and procedures in place as well as the proper training for staff to deal with guest privacy issues.

“You need to be able to demonstrate the training that went on, the frequency and outcomes,” Barth said. “How do you evaluate whether the training was effective? Ultimately, you have to be able to demonstrate this in a courtroom.”

Policies, procedures and training

David Samuels, partner at Michelman & Robinson, said one of the issues that jumped out at him in following the trial was whether the management company had the proper policies and procedures in place regarding guest privacy. He said he believes several jury members were bothered by the testimony of some hotel staff who couldn’t recall having those policies. Samuels followed the trial but was not directly involved in it.
At this point, all owners and operators should review how they’re running their properties and whether they have specific written policies and procedures in place.

“They need to have those and effectively train the staff on it,” Samuels said.

Along with having those policies in place, hoteliers should regularly update those policies based on legal developments, such as the Andrews case, according to Sylvia St. Clair, an associate with Faegre Baker Daniels. If there’s any question about whether a policy is in compliance with the law or industry standards, she said, contact legal counsel or the human resources department.

“Then ensure (that) new hires receive that training as well as existing employees,” she said.

If a front-desk associate receives a request for a guest’s private information, such as his or her guestroom number, St. Clair said the associate should know not to give that information out unless he or she is authorized to do so. The associate should know to contact his or her manager or supervisor with questions.

“You want a statement to give to (anyone) requesting information,” St. Clair said. “Make sure employees know if they are receiving these types of requests, and the person requesting is continually asking, they shouldn’t hesitate to get their manager or GM involved.”

After completing the training, St. Clair said, document the training in employees’ files to show they received the latest version of the policy and understand it.

House phone access

During the civil trial, there was a dispute over how Andrews stalker learned which guest room was hers, Samuels said.
Andrews attorneys argued her stalker learned from the front-desk staff, an allegation the associates denied during the trial. Her stalker, Barrett, said in a taped deposition that he figured out Andrews room number by using an internal house phone at the hostess stand in the hotel restaurant.

“Those are only supposed to be used by employees,” Samuels said.

Barrett called the front desk and asked to speak with Andrews, Samuels said, and when the line was connected, Andrews room number appeared on the phone’s LCD screen. Barrett then went to her floor, saw the room next to hers was being turned over and then requested at the front desk to be in that room.

“From a privacy standpoint, from a safety standpoint, hotel guests should never be allowed to use an internal house phone that displays the room number on an LCD screen,” Samuels said.

If guests need a house phone, he said, they should be directed to one without an LCD screen and it should connect to an operator.

Similarly, hotel employees should be aware of who may be looking over their shoulders when using phones that display room numbers, he said.

Red flags

In the plaintiff’s closing argument, Andrews attorneys asked why the front-desk staff was not more critical about someone asking for a specific room, especially one next door to Andrews, according to Christian Stegmaier, a shareholder at Collins & Lacy. Stegmaier followed the case but was not directly involved in it.
That argument might presume too much about Andrews’ fame at the time, he said, as the front-desk associate may not have put two and two together.

“The takeaway from all of that is when you have a prospective guest making very specific requests, like about specific rooms, you need to be critical (of it),” he said.

Asking some gentle questions might allow the associate to learn a little more about the person making the request and why that specific room is so important to them, Stegmaier said.

“From a management perspective, you need to empower your associates to use that kind of critical thinking,” he said. “You want to encourage that.”

That is doubly important when the front-desk staff is aware of any celebrities or dignitaries staying in the hotel, Samuels said. Any requests for a specific room adjacent to such guests should send up a “big, red flag,” he said.

For more: http://bit.ly/1VcP6UN

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Filed under Crime, Employee Practices, Guest Issues, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Liability, Management And Ownership, Privacy, Risk Management, Training

Insurance Helps Protect Against Data Breach Fallout

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Joshua Gold of Anderson Kill speaks about the different types of insurance coverage to protect against data breaches at the Hospitality Law Conference. (Photo: Bryan Wroten)

The past year was a big year for data breaches in the hotel industry, and industry experts say there’s no sign of it stopping any time soon. That means hoteliers not only need to work on prevention, but they also need protection in case an attack does occur.

Panelists in the session “Nailing down responsive cyber coverage that responds to hospitality industry risks” at February’s Hospitality Law Conference told attendees that everything about the current digital age that makes it great, such as connectability and massive data storage, also makes it a risk.

Attempting to list all of the data breaches in the past 12 months would overwhelm the presentation screen, said Joshua Gold, a cyber-insurance attorney at Anderson Kill, and the problem continues to grow.

“It’s getting worse, not better,” he said.

Insuring for different scenarios
Darin McMullen, an attorney at Anderson Kill, said there are four overlapping causes of data breaches at a company:

  • Accidental internal, a common cause of breaches, occurs when an employee loses a device with company business data on it, and it might fall into someone else’s benign or malicious possession.
  • Accidental external breaches occur through third-party vendors or subcontractors who have access to a company’s system or network. While they’re not trying to compromise their client’s security, they may cause harm through their own negligence.
  • Intentional internal breaches happen when a disgruntled employee creates the breach. This can be a common problem in hospitality where turnover can be high. Employees don’t necessarily have to be high-level to access sensitive data.
  • Intentional external breaches are the more traditional hacking events caused by criminal organizations or hacker activists, or hacktivists.

“Some you have control over; some you have virtually no control over,” McMullen said, who added that hoteliers should review their insurance options to protect against different risk exposures.

Gold said he’s working on an insurance claim for a client who had a former employee introduce malicious code into the company’s system. The code fried every controller, he said, causing physical damage to real pieces of hardware. For a networking company, this was a huge loss.

“The insurance company is saying electronic commands can’t cause real property damage,” he said. “It is covered under the literal language, but they don’t want to set that precedent. We will have to sue them.”

When looking for different cyber-insurance policies, Gold said, it’s important to keep in mind all the potential scenarios as some have provisions that exclude what hoteliers might need and think would be included, such as the physical damage in his client’s case. He said hoteliers should work with a savvy broker who specializes in cyber-insurance packages. There are so many different primary forms out there, he said, which can change every three to four months based on what clients face.

For more: http://bit.ly/1TZLnue

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Technology, Theft

Congress Cracks Down on Hotel Scams

congress

Imagine you’ve been planning all year for your family vacation at the beach. You find the perfect hotel—a spacious room with a view of the ocean and a big pool for the kids—and book the room using an online travel site. The whole family is excited for a week of surf, sand, and relaxation.

Everything is going great until you arrive at the hotel. After a few minutes of clicking around on the computer, the front desk woman asks you to spell your name again. Her brow furrows, and you start to worry. You are exhausted and just want to crawl into a clean bed and get some sleep. What is going on with this hotel room?

Now the manager arrives to help. “When did you make this reservation?” she asks. You tell her and you hear her typing some more. “Could it be under another name?” You feel a sense of panic as you shake your head no. What could be happening?

Finally, the bad news: There is no reservation. The website where you made your booking was a fraud, and now your dream vacation has become a nightmare. Many vacationers, and hoteliers, find themselves in this exact situation. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, millions of fraudulent bookings are made every year as these deceptive websites and call centers mislead vacationers by giving the appearance of being connected to a hotel, but actually have no legal relation to the brand or lodging property.

For consumers, the fraud takes several different forms. Unassuming guests could be charged additional hidden fees when they arrive, fail to get the accommodations they requested, lose expected loyalty points, or worse, they could learn that their reservation was never actually made. In the last year alone, close to 15 million reservations were made on such deceptive sites, resulting in hotel guests finding themselves out hundreds of dollars for either a worthless reservation or one that delivered much less than promised. It is estimated that these scams have cost upward of $1.3 billion per year in lost reservations, extra fees or charges, lost rooms, and costly inconveniences.

As you know, hotels are often mistakenly blamed for these fake reservations. Though they do all they can to assist swindled travelers, their reputation suffers as these stories are shared online or by word of mouth.

For these reasons, I have introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) in Congress to help crack down on call center and online hotel scams. First, our legislation would require all third-party hotel booking websites to disclose, clearly and conspicuously, that they are not affiliated with the hotel for which the traveler is ultimately making the reservation. This new requirement would help consumers tell the difference between name-brand hotel websites and fraudulent ones masquerading as name-brand sites.

Second, our legislation would give state Attorneys General the ability to go after perpetrators in federal court with the same remedies available to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Today, only federal authorities can fully penalize individuals who commit online hotel booking fraud. If the offense is small, federal authorities may forgo prosecution to go after more expansive crimes. Giving state Attorneys General the ability to pursue damages and restitution for victims will leverage the power of all 50 states to hold fraudsters of all levels accountable and deter criminals.

Our bill would also require two provisions to help illuminate the true extent of these crimes. It requires the FTC to produce a report on the impact of these fraudulent sites on consumers and it encourages the FTC to simplify its online complaint procedure for reporting hotel booking scams, a request we have recently made in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

My colleagues and I understand that online fraud is a serious problem for not only consumers, but also the entire lodging industry. It is also an especially significant issue for Florida, which is the top travel destination in the United States. With that said, I look forward to continuing to work with the AH&LA to move this important legislation forward to Congress, and tackle these scams. This way, travelers can get back to their vacations and hotels can focus on providing the world-class services that the American hotel industry is known for.

 

For more: http://bit.ly/1Qgrg7k

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

The 2016 Hospitality Law Conference

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Intensive Hospitality Education. Exceptional Networking. It’s Not Just for Lawyers.

From development deals to management agreements, from food and beverage liability to labor and employment, and from claims management to anti-trust issues, the latest cases, trends and challenges in compliance, finance, law, risk, safety, and security are up for exploration at the 14th Annual Hospitality Law Conference, February 22-24, 2016.

The Owner Management Summit, co-located with The Hospitality Law Conference – 2016, intersects legal, finance and technology and includes sessions on: who owns the data, who is responsible for the data, development and unwinding management contracts.

The Hospitality Insurance and Loss Prevention Summit, co-located with the Hospitality Law Conference, includes sessions on risk management, the top claims in 2015, and coverages for cyber & data breaches.

Hotel and Restaurant Corporate Counsel have several opportunities to meet with their peers in facilitated conversations to explore common challenges, solutions and law department management.

Also featured during The Hospitality Law Conference – 2016, are break-out sessions and roundtables in Food & Beverage, Lodging, and Human Resources & Labor Relations.

Join Petra Risk Solutions’ very own Todd Seiders for, “Discussion of Most Frequent Claims and How to Prevent Them”

 

Todd Seiders - Petra Risk SolutionsSlips, falls, breaks, disruptions.  If you are involved in the hospitality industry, you face very real threats to your financial well-being and your reputation.  A security breach at your property, a slip by a patron, a defect in construction, or a natural disaster are examples of problems that could and should be addressed by your risk management program and your insurance.  In this session, Todd Seiders, Director of Loss Control at Petra Risk Solutions, and Allen Wolff, Insurance Recovery Attorney with Anderson Kill, will identify and analyze some of the most frequent claims that arise in hospitality industry and will offer analysis and insight for managing the risk of such claims, mitigating the losses caused by them, and obtaining insurance coverage for them.

Click here for more infomation on: TODD SEIDERS
And for more info on the conference: http://bit.ly/1KfrDiI

 

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Embassy Suites Let Attacker Into Woman’s Room

Embassy

A New Jersey woman who was sexually assaulted while staying at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines has filed a lawsuit claiming staff members unwittingly let her attacker into her seventh-floor room.

Cheri Marchionda is suing both Embassy Suites and Hilton Worldwide, as well as Atrium Finance III, the company that owns the Des Moines hotel.

She was staying at the East Village hotel during a business trip when she awoke sometime after midnight on April 11, 2014, to find Christopher Edward LaPointe standing at the foot of her bed and touching her leg.

LaPointe, 31, a New York resident also staying at the hotel, is now serving a 20-year prison sentence at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center after pleading guilty to burglary and sexual abuse charges in December 2014.

In a federal lawsuit on track to go to trial in Des Moines, lawyers from a Pennsylvania firm representing Marchionda wrote that a manager, a desk clerk and a maintenance man all helped LaPointe get into the woman’s room without asking Marchionda whether he had permission to be there.

Though the Des Moines Register does not typically identify sexual assault victims in criminal cases, it does publish plaintiffs’ names in reporting on civil lawsuits. Reached by phone Wednesday, Marchionda’s lawyers said she did not currently want to speak publicly about the case.

“Each defendant owed a special duty of care to her, including a duty to provide for and assure her safety and security while at the hotel,” attorneys Paul Brandes and Michael Hanamirian wrote in the lawsuit. “To not expose her to burglary, assaults or attacks by others … and to not assist others in burglarizing, assaulting or attacking her.”

The negligence lawsuit was filed in a New Jersey federal court district in June, but was moved Tuesday to Iowa after lawyers couldn’t agree on a settlement during nonbinding mediation earlier in December. None of the defendants have filed an answer in court to the lawsuit, though a motion to dismiss over jurisdictional issues was denied by a judge.

The general manager at the Des Moines hotel did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call this week. Maggie Giddens, a public relations director for the hotel chain, said the company could not publicly comment because of the ongoing litigation.

The claims in Marchionda’s lawsuit are similar to those from another that Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred filed against Embassy Suites and its parent company, Hilton Worldwide, on behalf of a woman who was sexually assaulted while staying at one of their hotels in North Charleston, S.C.

For more: http://dmreg.co/1njFwCb

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Hospitality Industry Legal Update: “Critical Control Points in Liquor Liability”

In this article, dram shop and liquor liability expert, Jeff Jannarone discusses critical control points in bar operations, including recourse options for handling intoxicated patrons.

Every bar or restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages is at risk of having intoxicated patrons. However, the mere presence of an intoxicated patron within an establishment does not necessarily indicate a breakdown in an establishment’s training or operations, nor does it necessarily indicate a violation of the standard of care within the industry.

The presence of intoxicated people in any environment increases the likelihood of crimes and/or injuries. While bars and restaurants are responsible for limiting alcohol consumption, it is challenging to prevent every patron from becoming intoxicated; consequently, the way that an establishment responds to the presence of an intoxicated person is often the crux of a liquor liability dispute.

Questions that are commonly at issue in liquor liability disputes include:

  • How effective was staff at identifying the intoxicated patron?
  • Was the intoxicated patron continued to be served alcohol?
  • What measures did the establishment take in safeguarding their customers and the public?

These issues represent critical control points that test how effectively staff was prepared to handle potentially dangerous situations.

Many states have a requirement that businesses that are permitted to serve alcohol not serve anyone who is visibly intoxicated; permittees also are responsible for providing proper measures to ensure the safety of any intoxicated person on their licensed premises (or when they leave?). These requirements are reflected in the standards of care for the industry and reinforced by the various professional training programs that promote the responsible service of alcohol (e.g., TIPS, TAM, RAMP, etc.). The modern standard of care goes well beyond simply removing drunken people from an establishment or passively posting the phone number for a taxi service. A well prepared bar or restaurant has a variety of best practice recourse options when they identify an intoxicated person.

For more: http://bit.ly/1MRhbcq

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Hospitality Industry Security Update: “Developing a Cyberbreach Strategy”

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Throughout the business world, breaches have become a constant reminder of the critical need to assess and take action on cyberrisk. But they can also make addressing the issue seem like an ever more daunting task, leading many to either put off substantive measures or blindly buy the latest insurance or software to “take care” of the problem and move on.

“The biggest mistake companies make in the breach recovery process is just not being aware of the risk in the first place,” said John Mullen, managing partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP and chair of the firm’s data privacy and network security practice. “You would be amazed—I do up to 100 presentations a year, and at 80% of them, people still look at me like it’s the first time they have heard about it, and I have been doing this for over a decade. The people in the know are in the know, but there is an amazing amount of people who have no clue.”

There are countless ways a cyberbreach can unfold, and countless ways response can go wrong, but laying the strongest possible foundation ahead of time ultimately makes the difference between successful response and absolute disaster for a company that gets hacked or otherwise compromised. According to Mullen, a breach coach who reports that his firm sees a new breach case every business day of the year, “If you don’t do all of the prep stuff, you’ll never get response right.”

For more: http://bit.ly/1GycVMP

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