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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California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal-OSHA”) recently increased its penalties in response to Federal OSHA’s increased penalty hikes last year.

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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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Massachusetts recently passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which protects women from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and expressing milk. Effective April 1, 2018, it is unlawful for an employer to deny reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions upon request unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

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Starting January 1, 2018, San Francisco requires employers to ensure that any space offered for lactation also includes a place to sit, a surface on which to place a breast pump and/or other personal items, access to electricity, and a nearby refrigerator in which the employee can store expressed milk. An employee’s lactation break time may be unpaid if it is not taken within or during an already-specified paid break. The Ordinance strictly prohibits retaliation against anyone who requests lactation accommodation or files a complaint with San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (“OLSE”).

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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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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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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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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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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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