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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.Â As we have seen on multiple occasions, workplace violence and active shooter occurrences have been on a steady incline in this country.Â 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 â€“ criminal activity from a non-employee, client or customer.Â Second is the internal variety of a problem employee, employee personal relationship, hostile individual due to disciplinary actions or a facility closing.Â Be prepared by taking some very easy measures:
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.Â You not only have a legal responsibility but the obligation to your workforce.Â Negligent hiring, high-risk terminations, retention, security, and poor training open you and your organization to the possibility of a workplace violence incident.Â 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.
Coordinate a case assessment team and make sure they understand their purpose, make-up, objectives, and documentation measures.Â The need to recognize the behavioral warning signs that signal potential trouble and that evaluation of behavior is not â€˜profilingâ€™.
Remember, ignorance does not relieve an organization of responsibility.Â 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:Â http://bit.ly/1XAJN02
A juryâ€™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 Andrewsâ€™ and reversed the peephole in the door to see inside. The jury in Andrewsâ€™ 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, itâ€™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.
â€œYou need to be able to demonstrate the training that went on, the frequency and outcomes,â€ Barth said. â€œHow do you evaluate whether the training was effective? Ultimately, you have to be able to demonstrate this in a courtroom.â€
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 couldnâ€™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 theyâ€™re running their properties and whether they have specific written policies and procedures in place.
â€œThey need to have those and effectively train the staff on it,â€ 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 thereâ€™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.
â€œThen ensure (that) new hires receive that training as well as existing employees,â€ she said.
If a front-desk associate receives a request for a guestâ€™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.
â€œYou want a statement to give to (anyone) requesting information,â€ St. Clair said. â€œMake sure employees know if they are receiving these types of requests, and the person requesting is continually asking, they shouldnâ€™t hesitate to get their manager or GM involved.â€
After completing the training, St. Clair said, document the training in employeesâ€™ files to show they received the latest version of the policy and understand it.
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.
â€œThose are only supposed to be used by employees,â€ 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 phoneâ€™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.
â€œFrom 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,â€ 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.
In the plaintiffâ€™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 Andrewsâ€™ fame at the time, he said, as the front-desk associate may not have put two and two together.
â€œThe 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),â€ 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.
â€œFrom a management perspective, you need to empower your associates to use that kind of critical thinking,â€ he said. â€œYou want to encourage that.â€
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 â€œbig, red flag,â€ he said.
For more:Â http://bit.ly/1VcP6UN
CH&LA alerted its members last year that legal claims were being asserted against numerous lodging properties for refusing to rent to unaccompanied minors. The person at the center of most of those claims (Jonathan Asselin-Normand) is continuing his long-running campaign against California lodging properties raising such claims.
As CH&LA has repeatedly advised its members, both the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit blanket policies denying accommodations to people solely because they are unaccompanied minors.Â The minimum damages for violating the Unruh Act is $4,000, plus attorney’s fees.
However, where a minor unaccompanied by an adult seeks accommodations, hotel staff may require a parent or guardian of the minor, or another responsible adult, to assume, in writing, full liability for any and all proper charges and other obligations incurred by the minor for accommodations, food and beverages, and other services provided by or through the innkeeper, as well as for any and all injuries or damage caused by the minor to any person or property.Â California Code 1865(d)(1).
What Members Should Do ASAP:
If you have questions about this, feel free to contact CH&LA’s Member Legal Advisor, Jim Abrams, atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information:Â http://bit.ly/1QPre4h
The past year was a big year for data breaches in the hotel industry, and industry experts say thereâ€™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 â€œNailing down responsive cyber coverage that responds to hospitality industry risksâ€ at Februaryâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™s getting worse, not better,â€ 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:
â€œSome you have control over; some you have virtually no control over,â€ McMullen said, who added that hoteliers should review their insurance options to protect against different risk exposures.
Gold said heâ€™s working on an insurance claim for a client who had a former employee introduce malicious code into the companyâ€™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.
â€œThe insurance company is saying electronic commands canâ€™t cause real property damage,â€ he said. â€œIt is covered under the literal language, but they donâ€™t want to set that precedent. We will have to sue them.â€
When looking for different cyber-insurance policies, Gold said, itâ€™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 clientâ€™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:Â http://bit.ly/1TZLnue
Imagine youâ€™ve been planning all year for your family vacation at the beach. You find the perfect hotelâ€”a spacious room with a view of the ocean and a big pool for the kidsâ€”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. â€œWhen did you make this reservation?â€ she asks.Â You tell her and you hear her typing some more. â€œCould it be under another name?â€Â 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.
For more:Â http://bit.ly/1Qgrg7k
In 2015, the hotel industry suffered unprecedented cyberattacks. In one month alone, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Hilton Worldwide Holdings all fell prey to savvy cyber thievery.
Hyatt confirmed hackers used malware to collect cardholder names, card numbers, expiration dates and verification codes from at least 250 hotels globally. Just a few days after the company announced its planned merger with Marriott International, Starwood Hotels also stated malware had been used to steal credit and debit card data that was found on point-of-sale cash registers.
Hilton also began investigating credit card breaches at several of its properties, including its Hilton, Embassy Suites, DoubleTree, Hampton Inn and Suites, and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts brands. Hilton confirmed the breach and, much like Hyatt and Starwood, cited unauthorized malware that targeted payment card information in point-of-sale systems as the cause of the breach. Additional hotels targeted by hackers in 2015 included The Trump Hotel Collection, Mandarin Oriental and White Lodging Services Corporation.
To help prevent breaches, management should take steps to clearly define employee policies and procedures, which include:
Create protocols for access and transfer of sensitive information
Once a hotel has its IT network secure, only certain individuals should have access to the data. Further, user activity should be monitored using insider threat detection solutions that notify management of suspicious activities, both externally and internally. This includes monitoring applications for phones or computers that have access to sensitive data.
Hoteliers should tighten all network security. Simple ways to help accomplish that include:
Confirm that off-site technology is secure
Data housed off-site should be routinely backed up, and hoteliers should ensure that Web application firewalls are cloud-based solutions that are secure and encrypted. Hoteliers also should use top-notch anti-malware software and update it routinely.
Securing paper files that might include personal information
Employee files are a major target area for data breaches by way of paper files. They are typically easy to access (particularly in smaller hotels) and provide a significant source of data for a low-tech inside job.
Employee files also might include medical information protected by HIPAA. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, hacking has been involved in the HIPAA breaches of nearly 3 million patient records since 2009. Employees across all industries, including hospitality, should be aware that this highly sensitive information needs to be protected.
For more:Â http://bit.ly/1mHKrMn
When it comes to business and personal travel, customer expectations have always been high; customers increasingly expect more convenience, personalization, and flexibility from hospitality brands. Online booking options, mobile technology, and social media reviews have made the market intensely competitive. Customer loyalty is a key driver for revenue growth and competitive advantage. In fact, a recent Forrester study commissioned by Sabre Hospitality found that a 1-point score increase on their Customer Experience Index provides $6.52 in annual incremental revenue per customerâ€”a significant cumulative impact, especially for larger brands.
The same study found that two-thirds of leisure travelers and more than half of business travelers claim they are not loyal to any hotel brand. The studyâ€™s findings point to intelligent applications of technology and data as primary avenues for improving customer experience and loyalty, with an emphasis on integrated enterprise solutions. Feel-good experiences engender loyalty more surely than cost or convenience, and loyalty translates directly to good news for the bottom line. How can we begin to incorporate technology that leaves customers raving about their experience and returning for more the next time they travel?
One of the big pain points for customersâ€”the dreaded check-in processâ€”presents a huge opportunity for hotels that extends well past what happens at the front desk. Solutions for scanning and verifying IDs and passports, including mobile scanning and self-service kiosks, are transforming the check-in process and providing a key link between customers and data-driven, integrated hospitality platforms. With mobile scanning, check-in can begin anywhere (even remotely) and be completed in less time with fewer errors. Advanced scanning solutions quickly and accurately read all data off driversâ€™ licenses, passports, and other official identity cards, automatically populate data records and store a digital replica of the ID for regulatory and security purposes.
Once a guestâ€™s ID data has been scanned into records, it can then be cross-checked with other databases (DMV, credit bureaus, etc.) to verify the customerâ€™s identity. The data can also be connected with the hotelâ€™s enterprise systems for security, billing, and customer service management, as well as personalization and loyalty programs. The ability to quickly and accurately gather this data at the point of entry eases and enriches all the subsequent processes and interactions that rely on such data. These days, customers expect that you have their information and will use it to provide them with a more polished and personal experience. The information scanned at check-in can also be used for seamless sign-up to loyalty programs. Hotels and casinos have found that insights and information gleaned from this data allow them to tailor rewards to guestsâ€™ preferences and analyze guest spending patterns in response to various promotions.
A recent Software Advice study of hotel guest preferences found that 60 percent of respondents would be more likely to choose a hotel that allows check-in and keyless entry via smartphone, and 37 percent are more likely to choose a hotel with lobby technology such as self-service kiosks. This follows the general preference of Millennials for automated customer service options. Itâ€™s also reassuringly good news for hotels striving to deliver better customer service while controlling staffing costs. Front desk agents can spend more time on personal greetings, solving exceptions, and addressing complaints when they are freed from manual data entry tasks. A serene, smoothly run lobby makes for a more welcoming space than one crammed with guests waiting to check-in.
For more:Â http://bit.ly/1QcmxGI
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.
Slips, falls, breaks, disruptions.Â If you are involved in the hospitality industry, you face very real threats to your financial well-being and your reputation.Â 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.Â 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.
A New Jersey woman who was sexually assaultedÂ while staying atÂ the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines has filed a lawsuitÂ claiming staff members unwittingly let her attacker into her seventh-floorÂ room.
Cheri Marchionda is suingÂ both Embassy Suites and Hilton Worldwide, as well as Atrium Finance III, the company that owns the Des Moines hotel.
SheÂ 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 andÂ 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 aÂ federal lawsuitÂ on track to go to trial inÂ Des Moines, lawyers fromÂ a Pennsylvania firmÂ representing Marchionda wroteÂ that a manager, a desk clerk and a maintenance man all helped LaPointeÂ get into the woman’s room without asking MarchiondaÂ 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.Â Reached by phone Wednesday, Marchionda’s lawyers said she did not currentlyÂ 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.Â “To not expose her to burglary, assaults or attacks by others â€¦ and to not assist others in burglarizing, assaulting or attacking her.”
The negligence lawsuit was filed in a New Jersey federal court districtÂ in June, but wasÂ moved TuesdayÂ to Iowa after lawyers couldn’t agree on a settlementÂ 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.Â 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 thatÂ Los Angeles attorney Gloria AllredÂ filed against Embassy Suites and its parent company, Hilton Worldwide, on behalf of a woman who was sexuallyÂ assaulted while staying at one of their hotels in North Charleston, S.C.
For more:Â http://dmreg.co/1njFwCb