Hospitality Law
Marc Stephen Shuster
  • Hospitality Law
  • Investigating Sexual Harassment Claims: A Guide for Hospitality Employers
  • Although some claims of sexual harassment made by hotel and restaurant employees may not prove to be true, an employer’s failure to properly address sexual harassment complaints may render the employer liable for significant damages to a prevailing employee. Once an employee has complained of sexual harassment, an internal investigation is necessary to address and resolve the claim. This article describes best practices to take when conducting an internal investigation of a sexual harassment claim. This article also describes policies and procedures an employer can implement to help avoid sexual harassment claims Read on...

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...

FEBRUARY: Social Media: Interacting with the Hotel Customer

Nisha Thakkar

While social media has become a mainstream marketing channel, there are many variables that hoteliers are not taking advantage of to increase their revenue. Unlike other mainstream marketing avenues, social media is not static, as platforms continuously find ways to increase engagement with both users and advertisers. As social platforms have realized their massive marketing opportunities within their user base, they have increasingly capitalized on their clearly defined users by providing advertisers access to them. Today, the popularity of social channels has created a “pay-to-play” model that leaves many business owners and managers perplexed as to which channels to focus on, and the right budget to allocate in order to maximize return on investment (ROI). Read on...

Cass Bailey

These days, a lot goes into choosing the perfect hotel. Hotel choice no longer depends solely on the location, price, and amenities; it depends on experience. Customers have become more interested in experiential features instead of whether or not the hotel has a five-star review. As the phrase goes, many “do it for the gram.” When looking to book their stay, the Instagram generation is interested in things that are eye-catching and worthy of sharing with their followers. Just searching the hashtag “wanderlust” reveals millions of images of different travel experiences from around the world. Read on...

Tim Sullivan

As hoteliers’ key audiences spend less time on the Web and more time on their smartphones’ social apps, it is crucial for hotels to have a digital engagement strategy that creates meaningful interactions on social channels. Desktop still converts higher, but the path to a booking is a journey full of touch points across social. Now that social media platforms are maturing, hotels can go beyond targeting their own guests to discovering new profitable audiences. They can reach and drive sales for all sides of the business: leisure, corporate and group sales. However, before hoteliers think about social engagement, they need to cover the basics of personalization and one-to-one marketing. Read on...

Chris Teso

Social media has traditionally been approached as a marketing tool for top-of-funnel activities. However, the activities associated with generating awareness, like creating viral posts and taking advantage of real-time marketing moments, are difficult to measure and even harder to link to real business value. Yet, marketers innately know that social media has real opportunity as their audience is there—in volume and in frequency. As a result, a new trend is emerging among hotel marketers that takes distinct advantage of the direct follower model of social networks: the marriage of the loyalty program with social media marketing. Read on...

Coming Up In The March Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Human Resources: Inspiring a Journey of Success
In an increasingly competitive environment where hotels are competing to attract, and more importantly, to keep top talent, Human Resource managers are realizing the need to focus on improving their Employee Experience. Smart managers are embracing the idea of Employee Wellness which translates into a system of physical, mental, emotional, and purposeful well-being. Some organizations are even providing free counseling for their employees and their dependents. The goal is to nurture, support and engage with their employees in a way that increases productivity, improves customer service, enhances loyalty, and creates a more harmonious work environment for all. Along with this development is the need for more effective, ongoing training. Many HR managers rely on external training firms for this, but there is a growing trend which taps the experience and expertise that already exists within the organization. For example, younger employees likely have greater knowledge of social media which an older generation might struggle with. Harnessing this peer-to-peer learning can be an efficient and cost effective way of increasing skills, and as a result, the knowledge transferred is likely to be more acceptable and relevant. Finally, HR managers need to foster an environment that empowers people and taps into their full potential, inspiring a personal journey of success. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the strategies and techniques that human resource directors are currently developing in order to achieve success.