Hospitality Law
Lonnie Giamela
  • Hospitality Law
  • White Collar Exemptions and Why Job Descriptions are Essential
  • One of the most common misconceptions employers have is that an employee can be paid a salary merely because of their position or title within the company. Many well-intentioned employers latch on to this misconception and end up paying salaries to "managers," "administrative assistants," or other employees with lofty titles even though the law dictates otherwise. Of course, this can lead to very expensive misclassification lawsuits. This article explores a specific sub-set of exemptions, the "white collar" exemptions, and explains how they are applied. It will also describe what a well-written job description looks like and why it is essential to avoiding and defending against employee lawsuits. Read on...

Michael Elkon
  • Hospitality Law
  • What Hotel Leadership Should Know About the Emerging Trend of Assault and Battery Claims
  • While defining a “hostile work environment” is generally commonplace for HR professionals, one new, emerging trend in the workplace is the filing by employees or their attorneys of assault and battery charges. The law regarding assault and battery in the civil context has existed for decades, but in recent years, lawyers representing employees have started to make use of these claims with increasing frequency. This article lists five primary reasons for this shift, along with enumerating six steps an employer should follow to protect his company against an assault and battery claim. Read on...

Judi Jarvis
  • Hospitality Law
  • Why a Good Lawyer is a Great Sales Tool
  • As with most industries, there are myriad competing interests in the hospitality sector: developer vs. lender; franchisor vs. franchisee; operator vs. guest; owner vs. management company. The list, cynical as it may be, goes on. But there is one thing on which nearly all business people agree, and that unifies even the most divided of parties: lawyers kill deals. As a profession, we may have earned that reputation through negative comments about proposed transactions; advice based on theory and not practice; and a failure to put our clients ahead of ourselves. A good lawyer in the hands of a smart client, however, not only avoids killing deals but can be one of your best sales tools. Read on...

Mark S. Adams
  • Hospitality Law
  • The Shrinking Terms of Hotel Management Agreements
  • The relationship between hotel owners and managers continues to evolve. Hotel management agreements historically were long-term. Fifty to sixty year terms were common. However, in the last few years, hotel owners have successfully negotiated shorter contract durations and other more favorable terms, even from the largest and most sought-after major brands. This trend is likely to continue and expand as brands realize that hotel owners have the power to terminate so-called no cut, long-term hotel management agreements, despite contrary provisions in the contract which courts now routinely ignore as a matter of public policy. Read on...

John R. Hunt
  • Hospitality Law
  • Update on Tip and Service Charge Litigation
  • The past year has witnessed a continued surge in the number of federal wage and hour cases filed against businesses throughout the United States, including those in the hospitality industry. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Labor has engaged in enforcement initiatives directed at hotels, restaurants and bars. All of this has occurred against a backdrop of proposed regulatory reform that could affect the way in which hotel and restaurant operators compensate their employees. This article reviews some of the more important developments in these areas. Read on...

William A. Brewer III
  • Hospitality Law
  • The New Frontier: Understanding Rights and Responsibilities When Changing Hotel Brands
  • Tension between hotel owners and hotel management companies comes as no surprise during tough economic times. But even in times of improved economic prosperity, some hotel owners are intolerant of management companies that fail to manage assets in the most effective and profitable manner possible. This results in certain owners seeking, or being compelled, to convert their asset to a different brand, or in some cases no brand at all. They do so to protect their long-term economic interests in markets that have proven to be cyclical. In this piece, we explore important considerations regarding the respective rights and responsibilities of owners and managers in such circumstances. Read on...

Lonnie Giamela
  • Hospitality Law
  • Avoiding Liability for Retaliation Claims
  • Retaliation lawsuits are the most common claims brought against employers before governmental agencies and are increasing in frequency in the civil court system. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2013, a retaliation claim was made in 41.1% of all charges submitted to the EEOC. This is more than discrimination based on race and more than discrimination based on disability. Even more concerning is the consistent uptick in retaliation allegations. Retaliation claims have increased in number every year since 1997. So, what can employers do to protect themselves against this ever-growing liability? First, employers must understand what retaliation is. Next, employers must be able to issue spot when a particular set of facts poses a high risk for a retaliation claim. This article will attempt to do both. Read on...

Marjorie Obod
  • Hospitality Law
  • What do Hotel HR Managers Need to Know About the Affordable Care Act and the January 1, 2015 Deadline for Compliance?
  • What steps do Hotel HR Managers need to take to determine if the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) requires that changes be made to the healthcare benefits offered to employees by January 1, 2015? Although the seasonal exception may apply to employees in the hotel industry, the fact that the definition for “full time” employees under the ACA lowers the threshold number of hours an employee needs to work to be considered a “full time” employee from 40 hours a week to 30 hours a week, requires that HR Managers recalculate whether the fifty (50) full-time of full-time equivalent employees cutoff has been met. In addition to factors that must be considered in determining if the ACA applies to your hotel, this article outlines what HR Managers need to do to prepare for the January 1, 2015 effective date of the ACA. Risks for non-compliance are outlined so that HR Managers are aware of how to act prudently in protecting businesses from unnecessary costs that can be avoided through understanding the law and taking responsive action. Read on...

Banks Brown
  • Hospitality Law
  • The Continued Challenges of Safety and Security After 9/11
  • As this article is being written, two armed police officers guard the front of the building that houses our law offices, and have been a fixture since the UN was in session over three weeks ago. The officers first appeared at the same time that government agents encased in flack jackets, bearing machine guns, and accompanied by canine units appeared on the streets outside of Grand Central Terminal and the New York Public Library. Last week also brought news that NYC’s Office of Emergency Management ran a training exercise that simulated an emergency response to a 10-kiloton nuclear device exploding in Times Square, which according to the simulation, killed 100,000 people instantly, took down skyscrapers for a half-mile radius and inflicted damage up to two miles away, all as a radiation cloud swept over the entire metropolitan region. No doubt, the nation’s safety and security are still critical issues. Read on...

Andria Ryan
  • Hospitality Law
  • Employee Theft – Protecting More Than Property
  • The problem of employee theft in hotels is an age-old problem. Businesses lose billions of dollars each year in employee theft. And hotels, by nature, present numerous opportunities for employee theft from guests and the house. Theft in a hotel can take many forms – from identity theft to credit card fraud to theft of merchandise and guest property. No employer hires an employee thinking that the employee is someday going to steal. Hotels need to take steps to prevent theft and be cautious in taking action against an employee after a suspected theft. Both have practice and legal implications. Read on...

J.Thomas Cairns
James D. Gassenheimer
  • Hospitality Law
  • Mitigating the Threat of Cybersecurity Litigation in an Ambiguous Regulatory Environment
  • The hospitality industry has become an ever increasing target for cybercrimes and accordingly, for related litigation. Although the prevailing legal standard requires hotels and other businesses to take reasonable steps to protect customers’ personal information, juries tend to hold the hospitality industry to higher standards. Jurors relate to guests on vacation and believe they should not have to bring with them the same level of vigilance they apply to their everyday lives. With expectations heightened, how should businesses approach protecting customers’ personal information from cybersecurity threats in this ambiguous regulatory environment, and what steps can be taken to mitigate exposure to cybersecurity lawsuits? This article explores these issues in the context of agency guidance and recent federal court opinions issued in the FTC’s pending enforcement action against Wyndham Worldwide Corporation and related entities. Read on...

Richard  Barrett-Cuetara
  • Hospitality Law
  • Hospitality Litigation: Asset Managers, Hotel Operators and Franchisors
  • In the hotel industry, the myriad of complex business relationships also creates legal land-mines for the unwary. In that regard, hotel asset managers, hotel operators and franchisors should be extremely mindful of their legal obligations to their client, the owner of the hotel. Even if the hotel is a single asset, there are potentially four groups that, for a better term, have their fingers in the pie – the owner, hotel asset manager, hotel operator and franchisor. But at the end of the day, each of these relationships confer legal rights for the benefit of the owner and potentially, to the detriment of the asset manager, hotel operator and franchisor. Read on...

Gregory A. Wald
  • Hospitality Law
  • I-9 Compliance: Diffusing an Inherent Risk
  • Deep within the filing cabinets of every hotel’s Human Resources department hides a ticking time bomb: the Form I-9. Each of these federally-mandated, deceptively short forms holds the potential of inflicting thousands of dollars of damage on an unsuspecting employer. When the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division comes calling, as its audit numbers show it increasingly is, simple paperwork errors can be costly and criminal prosecution can follow. Learn about recent enforcement actions against the Hotel industry and advice on how to ensure your company is in full compliance. Read on...

Kathleen Pohlid
  • Hospitality Law
  • Protecting Your Proprietary Information
  • Virtually everyone has access to computer technology. This presents significant challenges for establishments seeking to protect their proprietary information. A tiny thumb drive can enable the download of thousands of documents of critical information. Images and data can be captured in an instant with cell phones and transmitted to multiple entities. Add to this the reality that businesses need employee talent to thrive, but a competitive economy also poses the possibility that current employees could be future competitors. What can an establishment do to protect their proprietary information? In this article we will discuss measures to reduce the risk. Read on...

JANUARY: Mobile Technology: A Permanent Sense of Immediacy

Alastair Cush

A growing number of properties are implementing mobile access guest room locking systems and the apps that support them. Many chain standards mandate mobile access and independents are joining the trend. What few operators understand is that mobile access implementation has changed not only every aspect of hotel door locks but also many other areas of hospitality operations. More people are actively involved in the decision making process for hotel locks than before. Mobile access has integrated the lock process with numerous property and chain departments from sales to guest loyalty and brand marketing. The original purpose of improving guest door locks was exclusively loss prevention and security. Read on...

Jim Vandevender

Meeting data and technology have evolved considerably since the days of the bulky ,expensive mail ordered meeting planner guides and hotel catalogues. The ways in which hotels find and book groups is far different than the antiquated methods of not so long ago. As better technology surrounding meetings and events becomes available , hotels appetites for group business seems to also increase at a parallel pace making the need to keep the related technology evolving even more paramount. The companies that provide hotels with this meeting intelligence are continually developing new and more advanced methods of gathering this sought after data to keep up pace with the demand. Read on...

Dave Weinstein

As with so many industries, the smartphone has transformed how organizations interact with their customers. Look at the automotive industry, the airline industry, and of course, the hospitality industry. You start your car’s engine and set the climate control to the desired temperature, buy airline tickets and check-in on your flight and do the same with your hotel room, all from your phone. There is a slew of services that traditionally are offered by hotels via the “book” on the desk. The book is still there, but some hotels allow you to order via the television while others offer integrated tablets. Read on...

Kacey Butcher

Can you imagine your bank choosing not to provide a way to check account status and transactions outside of your monthly paper statement? Can you further imagine a popular franchise restaurant only having paper take-out menus? You would be forced to contemplate what other aspects internally within the organization would make doing business with them complicated and archaic. There you find your own personal underlying immediate expectation of baseline service and operational procedures, where a decision is often made instantly to move onto the next provider. A decision to choose another provider that seemingly knows how to service customers with the utmost up-to-date standards. Read on...

Coming Up In The February Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Social Media: Interacting with the Hotel Customer
Consider these astonishing numbers: 1.49 billion active monthly Facebook users. 1.1 billion active monthly YouTube users. 320 million active monthly Twitter users and nearly 400 million registered users on LinkedIn. 400 million active monthly Instagram users and 200 million active Google+ users. The power and reach of social media is an awesome force and it has transformed how hotels interact with their customers. In the past year, social media advertising spending increased 33.5% to nearly $24 billion dollars. Social networks are being utilized by hotels to reach more visitors, expand brand awareness, enhance brand reputation and to establish more direct and personal communication with their customers. Savvy hotel operators are adopting a comprehensive social media strategy, and there are several emerging trends to note. Video continues to be a powerful and influential element in social media marketing, with 70% of companies saying that it is their most effective marketing tool. Video generates a 62% higher engagement rate than photographs alone, and with new social sites like Meerkat and Periscope which offer live video streaming, those numbers will only increase. Sponsored content is another growing trend. Though advertorials have been around for decades, hotels are finding new ways to maximize the visibility of their content. Some are placing sponsored content on Facebook, or on influencer blogs. Another trend is the integration of a “Buy Now” button into social media websites. Customers will be able to make purchases without ever having to leave their favorite social sites. This development is a major convenience for customers and should also be an additional revenue source for hotels. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.