The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance on June 28, 2022 that grants a variety of health and safety protections to hotel and housekeeping employees, joining neighboring jurisdictions Long Beach, Santa Monica, Glendale, and West Hollywood in extending additional safeguards to a critical segment of Los Angeles' business and tourism economies. The Workplace Security, Workload, Wage and Retention Measures for Hotel Workers, as the ordinance is called, applies to all "hotel employers" in the City of Los Angeles, defined as "any person who owns, controls, or operates a hotel in the City, and includes any person or contractor who, in a managerial, supervisory, or confidential capacity, employs hotel workers to provide services at a hotel in conjunction with the hotel's purpose."
Slated to take effect on August 8, 2022, the ordinance imposes a wide-ranging set of obligations on employers in the hospitality industry, including but not limited to the below highlights:
Hotels can now no longer require workers to work more than 10 hours in a workday unless the worker consents in writing to do so. For the consent to be valid, the hotel must advise the worker in writing before their consent is provided that they have the option to decline to work more than 10 hours in a day without adverse action.
For each workday, employers must now maintain records containing specific data for each employee, including their rate of pay; identification of rooms cleaned; actual square footage of each room cleaned; total square footage cleaned; overtime hours worked; and any written consents provided, among other data. As with payroll records, such records must be kept for three years and must be made available for inspection and copying to any hotel worker or designated representative (analogous to requests for personnel and payroll records under the Labor Code).
Workload and Pay Requirements
For hotels with 45 or more rooms, hotels must now pay their employees double-time rates for all hours worked in a day if the worker cleans more than a certain amount of square footage. If a hotel has 45-59 rooms, an employee cannot be required to clean rooms totaling more than 4,000 square feet in an 8-hour workday. For hotels with 60 or more rooms, room cleaning employees are capped at 3,500 square feet in a given 8-hour workday. Special rules apply if the employee is assigned to "special attention" or "additional-bed" rooms (e.g., suites), or assigned to more than one hotel or multiple floors. For example, if an employee is assigned six or more such rooms, the maximum square footage they can be assigned to clean in an 8-hour workday is reduced by 500 square feet for each such room over five. Similar 500 square feet reductions occur if the employee is assigned to more than one building or more than two floors (i.e., the maximum area is reduced by 500 square feet for each additional hotel building or each additional floor).
Employers must provide notice of rights under the ordinance to all hotel workers no later than 30 days after hire, said notice to be given in English, Spanish, and any language spoken by more than 10% of the workforce.
The ordinance creates a private right of action for the City of Los Angeles or any aggrieved person to seek damages, penalties, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and costs if an employer retaliates against a worker for asserting rights under the ordinance. Hotels must provide a written explanation for any adverse employment action that occurs after a worker is "known to have engaged" in protected activity under the ordinance (e.g., by declining to work more than 10 hours in a day). Statutory penalties can total $100 per aggrieved person per day, and as with wage claims, treble damages may be assessed for willful violations of pay or workload requirements.
Personal Security Devices
All hotels are now required to provide panic buttons to hotel workers assigned to work in any guest room or restroom facility where other hotel workers are not assigned to be present. Annual training must be provided on use of the devices. Furthermore, hotels shall at all times have a designated security guard who can receive alerts from the device and provide on-premises assistance (hotels with fewer than 60 rooms may train a managerial employee to fulfill these responsibilities in lieu of a separate security guard).
Beyond what the layman may think of traditional hotel services, the ordinance also covers any "contracted, leased or sublet premises operated in conjunction with a hotel," such as a restaurant or spa located in or on the hotel property, extending these requirements to various additional categories of employees.
Hotels that are concerned about the cost implications of the ordinance may apply for a waiver by demonstrating that compliance would require the hotel employer to reduce its workforce by more than 20% or cut employees' hours by more than 30% in order to avoid a bankruptcy or shutdown. Applications must be submitted to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Bureau of Contract Administration, Office of Wage Standards. Note this waiver is valid for one year only—so those compliance programs should be planned for and begin to be implemented as soon as possible, regardless of the success of any waiver.
If they have not yet begun, hotels must ensure their compensation, workload, recordkeeping, notice, and training arrangements pass muster with the ordinance and ensure they have the proper security staff and devices in place prior to the ordinance becoming effective. Employers may contact one of Venable's experienced California Labor and Employment attorneys with questions regarding the requirements of the Workplace Security, Workload, Wage, and Retention Measures for Hotel Workers ordinance and guidance moving forward.