Tag Archives: Lawsuits

Eight Places to Clean to Avoid Norovirus Outbreak

norovirus

Most prevalent in the winter months, norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States resulting in as many as 21 million cases each year and 1.9 million hospital visits. To help reduce the spread of flu within businesses this season, Cintas Corporation offers a checklist of commonly overlooked “hot spots” to help facility managers maintain a clean environment for employees and guests.

 

“A norovirus outbreak can wreak havoc on a business’s productivity,” said John Engel, senior marketing manager, Cintas. “Whether you work in a school, medical building, hotel, restaurant, or even a cruise ship, an aggressive cleaning regimen with effective cleaning, sanitization and disinfection can help reduce the impact or threat of an outbreak.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies three primary modes of transmission for norovirus: Eating or drinking contaminated foods or liquids, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or having direct contact with an infected person.

To help minimize the spread of norovirus, facility managers should pay close attention to the following items within a building:

Door handles. Because they are one of the most touched surfaces in a facility, it’s important to regularly wipe down and disinfect all door handles within a building. This includes doors to offices, restrooms, storage areas, refrigerators, as well as the front and back entrances that are often used by employees.

Community tables. Whether it is in a conference room, waiting area or in an employee cafeteria, table surfaces are touched often and should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Elevators. Touched daily by employees or guests, elevator buttons can be a likely source for virus transmission. Wipe down elevator buttons on a daily basis and sanitize them at least once a week.

Community benches and chairs. Because they are designated for sitting, seats might be an overlooked part of the cleaning and disinfecting process. To prevent the spread of bacteria and norovirus infection, clean all parts of the seat, including the bottom and arm rests.

Light switches. Although light switches in primary areas of a facility, such as the lobby, might be touched only once a day, light switches in other areas like meeting rooms, offices or the restroom are used more frequently and require additional cleaning.

Employee kitchen equipment. Clean and wipe down the surfaces of all kitchen and break room equipment, including large items such as dishwashers and microwaves and smaller equipment such as coffee makers and toasters.

Drinking fountains. Drinking fountains can become contaminated by a variety of germs from the user’s mouth and hands, which is why it’s important to disinfect their surfaces – particularly their spouts and handles daily.

Railings. Located alongside stairs or at the top of an atrium or overlook, railings and handrails should be cleaned and disinfected daily.

For more: http://bit.ly/1L3n4mM

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Filed under Food Illnesses, Guest Issues, Health, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

5 Questions, Answers About ADA Compliance

ADA

Hotel News Now has run numerous stories about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA), with topics ranging from how to handle service animals to providing equal access to guests.

 

However, sometimes those articles inspired more questions from you. We asked two legal sources to provide some insights on your questions.

1. If someone comes in and asks me for a handicap room, can I ask them for proof they are disabled or handicapped at that point (such as a handicap sticker)?

Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “No. A hotel should not inquire about or require proof of disability when a person requests an accessible room. However, it would be appropriate to say something like: ‘The room you are requesting has features for guests with mobility and/or hearing disabilities. Would you like to continue booking this room?’ This clarification point is helpful to ensure that the person booking the room knows what type of room he or she is booking.”

2. If a hotel does charge more for an ADA room, what recourse is there? 

Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “Hotels cannot charge more for a room just because it is accessible. The rates for comparable accessible and non-accessible rooms must be the same. A person who has been charged more for an accessible room can claim an ADA Title III violation and bring a private lawsuit. He or she can also file a complaint with the Department of Justice.”

3. If a hotel must provide equal access to everyone and not charge an additional amount for service animals, then logic would follow that they cannot charge extra for a refrigerator to keep medication refrigerated. Can you comment on the legalities of this? 

Taylor Burras of Michelman & Robinson: “Hoteliers must make ‘reasonable modifications’ to their standard policies when accommodating a person with a disability. Section 36.301(c) of the Americans with Disabilities Act states: ‘A public accommodation may not impose a surcharge on a particular individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary aids, barrier removal, alternatives to barrier removal, and reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, that are required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act.’ Thus, it would stand to reason that a hotel cannot charge extra for a refrigerator to keep medication refrigerated.”

4. Are therapy dogs classified as a “Service Dog”? We have seen a recent influx of travelers and they carry a tag that said “Certified Therapy Dog.”

Taylor Burras of Michelman & Robinson: “The ADA defines a ‘service animal’ as ‘any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.’ However, dogs with the sole function of providing comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA definition. Since they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, such therapy dogs do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

“It’s important to note that the ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that a neurological event or episode is about to happen and take a specific action that will help prevent, or lessen the impact, that dog would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort or emotional support, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

“Notably, however, some state or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places, so hotels should check with their state or local government agencies to find out if they may be subject to such a regulation.”

5. Is there an appropriate way to handle a situation where the dog is a service dog but not apparently working? (For example, there was a guest who had to carry the dog who was on chemotherapy and had arthritis in its back legs. He was trained, but it seemed he was retired and it was seemingly more of a rescue situation for a dog that had been in service.)

Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “When a hotel has reason to believe that a dog may not be a service dog, it can ask two questions: ‘Do you need this dog because of a disability?’ If the answer is yes, then the second question that can be asked is: ‘What work or tasks has this animal been trained to perform?’ If the owner cannot identify the work or tasks that the dog has been trained to perform for the person with a disability, the dog is not a service animal.”

For more: http://bit.ly/1ParGsU

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training

The 2016 Hospitality Law Conference

hospitality

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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Filed under Conferences, Hotel Restaurant, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

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

Booking Scams: Helping Guests Helps Hoteliers

Scams

Although online booking scams are a problem that should be resolved by the hotel industry as a whole, they also can cause headaches for individual front-desk employees at properties.

 

According to research from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 15 million deceptive bookings were made in 2015 at a cost of roughly $1.3 billion.

So what should you do when prospective guests walk through your front door believing they’ve booked and paid for a stay only to find out they’ve been scammed? Sources said the answer to that question can be a difficult one, but it requires a delicate balance of education, compassion and long-term thinking.

Maryam Khan Cope, VP of government affairs for AH&LA, said one way these rogue websites operate is by taking photos from a hotel’s website and claiming to offer bookings to that particular property.

“We’re seeing this spike (in booking scams) and hearing from hotels that they essentially had their identities replicated on these scam sites,” Cope said.

Accommodating a scammed guest

Even though hoteliers did nothing wrong to cause a would-be guest walking onto their property with a sham booking, there is a lot on the line depending on how the situation is handled.

Roger Bloss, CEO of Vantage Hospitality Group, said his directive to owner-operators of his company’s brands is to honor stays of “a night or two” and charge it to the corporate office.

“We’ve got to think about the people booking in the economy lodging segment,” Bloss said. “(Scam bookings) can be a dramatic hardship on them. As hoteliers, we don’t want to see that happen. So, we’ve instructed our hotels to be hospitable.”

Bloss said covering stays for scammed customers benefits the company in terms of reputation management. Even though the hotel isn’t the source of the scam, leaving a would-be guest out in the cold can lead to a negative association with brands and possibly negative reviews and backlash online.

“At the end of the day, it always comes back to the brand, the property and the company,” Bloss said. “I don’t want to put our members in the position that they have to make a financial decision that affects the brand as a whole. In the days of social media, it’s a lot less expensive to keep a customer than attract new ones.”

Bloss said he sees this as a common sense approach.

“You have to think about all the money spent to attract guests to hotels,” Bloss said. “Would you destroy all that over a couple hundred bucks?”

Cope said AH&LA suggests taking a similar tact to what Bloss described.

“We suggest, because they’re in the business of guest service, that they do whatever they can to accommodate,” she said. “That might mean identifying an alternative at your hotel in your area.”

Cope said GMs try to “bend over backwards” to help scammed guests, but sometimes they’re caught in situations where no solution presents itself, such as if no rooms are available. But hoteliers should keep in mind that all efforts to help a scammed guest are positive.

“They should offer any additional support they can provide the guest especially because negative experiences often reflect on the hotel,” Cope said.

Chris Harvey, GM of the Crowne Plaza Charleston Airport & Convention Center, said he has been lucky enough to not encounter scammed guests at his hotel, but if it were to occur he’d instruct staff to offer a room at a reduced rate.

“You have to make sure you’re doing something for them and help them to keep the situation from getting worse,” Harvey said.

For more: http://bit.ly/1NbJKAJ

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training

Workers Compensation Best Practices: What You Should Be Doing

Workers Compensation

Effective cost management of workers compensation claims starts at the time of the injury. Otherwise, studies confirm that the longer it takes to report a claim, the higher the cost.

 

“What happens in the first 24 hours post-injury is critical,” said Michael Bell, executive vice president for U.S. business development with Gallagher Bassett. Industry experts agree that successful management of these expenses must be comprehensive from start to finish, from the time of the injury through recovery and eventual return to work.

Bell estimates that 30% of all injured workers require medical guidance instead of medical care. This means that 30% can be resolved with self-treatment and that a claim doesn’t have to be filed. It eliminates a costly visit to the emergency room, where expenses can quickly climb to $1,000 or more.

The top priority — helping the employee recover and return to work — is best addressed by prompt treatment and proper guidance to direct the patient to the right source of care. For example, if someone is suffering from complex pain issues, a general practitioner may not be the best option for a claim that is not going to end with a simple outcome.

An injury is frequently a new experience for many employees who are looking for guidance. Where that guidance comes from, whether on the employer’s side or the claims handling side, makes a difference. A recommended best practice, Bell said, is a nurse triage process. Nurses will record initial interviews at the site of the accident, a critical time when facts can be clarified and confirmed. A worker will be much more honest in sharing information with a nurse than with a claims professional. A triage nurse also determines whether treatment is even necessary and then guides the patient to the appropriate medical provider.

For more: http://bit.ly/1mQNvXM

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Management And Ownership, Workers' Compensation

Hotel Housekeeping Firm Accused of Insurance and Tax Fraud

housekeeping

The owners of an Irvine-based company that provides housekeeping services for luxury resorts and major hotel chains in Southern California have been indicted in what prosecutors call a $7 million insurance and tax fraud scheme, the San Diego County district attorney’s office announced Monday.

Prosecutors alleged in a news release that Hyok “Steven” Kwon and Woo “Stephanie” Kwon hid the existence of about 800 employees for almost a decade through a “methodical and systematic shell game involving six straw owners.”

The scheme enabled the Kwons to avoid paying more than $3.6 million in housekeeping workers’ compensation insurance premiums and more than $3.3 million in payroll taxes, prosecutors said.

 

The Kwons’ company, Good Neighbor Services, has high-profile clients in San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties, including the Hotel del Coronado and hotel chains such as Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Hilton and Hyatt, according to prosecutors.

“These defendants lied on the backs of their employees who were cleaning rooms in some of the most prestigious hotels in California,” San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said in a statement. “If employees got hurt on the job, they were threatened with being fired.”

Prosecutors allege that housekeeping and other employees at Good Neighbor Services were not paid overtime and not granted workers’ compensation benefits if they were hurt on the job.

One worker whom investigators interviewed said she had to repeatedly ask for medical attention when she was hurt, and when the Kwons did send her to a doctor, it was a dentist, not a physician, according to the district attorney’s office.

For more: http://lat.ms/1Pjd5Ld

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Workers' Compensation

California Businesses 40% More Likely to be Sued by Employees

California

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.

For more: http://bit.ly/1OshHAO

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

Wifi blocking is illegal (FCC fines Hilton Hotels)

wifi

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.

For more: http://bit.ly/1lgp8Bz

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

Management Update: “How to Future-Proof Your Hotel Company”

Smart hotel executives spend time dealing not only with the challenges of today but also the challenges of tomorrow. I don’t mean tomorrow as in the day after today. I mean tomorrow as in the future, six months from now, five years from now.

Our copycat industry is historically bad at this. We often take note of obstacles only after we’ve hit them head on. In a daze, we then rush to adopt the tactics of our nearest competitor.

Why? Maybe we’re not looking far enough ahead. Or maybe we’re not looking for the right signals ahead.

Across all industries, executives’ future-proofing exercises typically revolve around the proverbial Next Big Thing—what’s coming down the pike that’s going to change the world as we know it.

During a keynote at this week’s Marketing Outlook Forum, J. Walker Smith of the Futures Company suggested a different tact: The “Vanishing Point” approach.

It’s hard to spot the “Next Big Thing,” Smith said. When they first materialize, they’re often too small to notice. And they come on quickly, which makes it difficult to react when you finally do notice them.

Vanishing Points are the opposite, Smith said. They are the points at which big, established factors of influence wane out of relevance. That creates a vacuum that must be replaced by something new.

Spot them early, and you can begin to anticipate what will fill the void.

It’s like a big tree falling the in the forest, Smith said. That allows sunlight to penetrate the canopy and foster growth for something new.

An example: Screens are getting smaller. What once was a desktop became a smaller laptop which became a smaller tablet which became a smaller smartphone. Now wearables are on the rise, and screens are getting even smaller.

“This is the big vanishing point,” Smith said. “The active digital screen is going away. It is being replaced by sensors, or passive digital.”

Shoes will connect to Google Maps and buzz the right or left foot depending on which way you need to turn. Embedded technologies will track your health and fitness.

Instead of inputting data into a screen, sensors will track your behavior and send you information before you even know you needed it, Smith said.

He called it the “pivot to passive.” In the ecommerce space, Amazon is working to patent anticipatory shopping software that sends you products without you even putting them in your online shopping cart.

Think of that in travel context, Smith imagined. The agonizing booking funnel becomes an intuitive, anticipatory process that actively monitors your behavior and schedules a hotel stay accordingly.

Will it happen tomorrow? I hope not. (I’m not ready for buzzing shoes.) But it could happen one day. Maybe it will even be the Next Big Thing. Time to get out in front of it.

For more: http://bit.ly/1LGI05j

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Filed under Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Technology