Stokes Wagner Law Firm
Stokes Wagner

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, a gunman shot into a crowd of 22,000 people from his 32nd-story room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. After 11 minutes, 59 people were killed and more than 500 were injured. Whether hotels can or will respond to this tragedy with security measures capable of preventing future mass shootings remains to be seen. In the wake of this tragedy, however, hotel security practices undoubtedly will come under severe scrutiny. As many of our hospitality clients have contacted us over the past three days to discuss their security obligations, we thought this short article might prove helpful by identifying certain legal principles applicable to hotel security and by outlining several security measures hotels will likely evaluate and implement in the near future.

An Innkeeper’s Liability for Guest Safety

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On September 6, 2017, in Marsh v. J. Alexander’s, LLC, the Ninth Circuit refused deference to the United States Department of Labor’s (the “DOL”) 80/20 Rule, which interprets the “tip credit” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The Ninth Circuit held that the 80/20 Rule is inconsistent with the FLSA because the Rule improperly focuses on an employee’s individual duties, rather than an employee’s distinctive dual positions.

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The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced an intent to rescind the notorious 2011 Federal Tip-Pooling Rule, which currently prevents service-industry employers from allowing front-of-house servers to share tips with back-of-house employees (i.e., cooks and dishwashers). Under the 2011 regulation, tip-pools must only include front of house staff. Given the prevalence of tip-pooling in the service industry, the 2011 rule has been the subject of numerous legal challenges, including two petitions that are currently pending before the United States Supreme Court.

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On July 17, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) released a revised Form I-9.

While the revised form does not change storage and retention rules, it does include subtle changes to the form’s instructions. For instance, the instructions to Section 1 have been revised to remove “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.” Also, the form introduces a new name for the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices: The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.

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In a recent newsletter, we reported that the United States Supreme Court would decide the hotly contested issue of whether class waivers are valid in arbitration agreements sometime this year.

The Court recently announced that it would hear oral argument on the issue on October 2, 2017. Stokes Wagner will keep you informed as things progress with this hot issue.

For more legal updates, check out our update for September 2017!

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In Stragapede v. City of Evanston, Illinois, the Seventh Circuit upheld the nearly $580,000 jury verdict in favor of the former City employee. Stragapede, a 14-year veteran of the City’s Department of Water Services, suffered a traumatic brain injury at home in 2009.

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As we wrote in our June update, the Obama administration raised the minimum salary requirement for major “white collar” exemptions from $455/week to $913/week. In July 2017, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) filed its long-awaited reply brief with the 5th Circuit regarding the new minimum requirements. The DOL did not seek to reinstate the Obama’s minimum salary level. The DOL did, however, ask the Court to find that the DOL has authority to set a salary test.

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For the first time ever, the California Labor Commissioner fined a general contractor nearly $250,000 for wage and hour violations committed by its subcontractor, who had been hired for a hotel construction project in Southern California. This decision is significant for businesses that use subcontractors.

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Ever wonder if you can recover litigation costs in employment cases? On August 15, 2017, in Sviridov v. City of San Diego, the court made it clearer for employers.

Two years ago, in Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist., the Supreme Court explained that prevailing employers in employment cases can generally only recover costs if the employee’s action was objectively without foundation – an extraordinarily high standard. However, Williams was not asked to consider and did not answer the question of whether costs may properly be awarded in a FEHA action pursuant to a Section 998 offer. That issue was before the court in Sviridov.

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Employees who sue for unpaid wages can either file (1) a civil lawsuit or (2) a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (“DLSE”). An employee who files a wage claim with the DLSE may participate in a settlement conference with his/her employer. If the case does not settle, the DLSE will set the case to an administrative hearing, known as a “Berman Hearing”. Berman Hearings are mini, informal trials with a Labor Commissioner. Berman Hearings, compared to civil lawsuits, are designed to provide a speedy, informal, and affordable method for employees and employers to resolve wage claims.

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