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Board to draft ordinance for hotel worker safety


In unincorporated areas

Despite cost concerns from business and hotel representatives, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directed its attorneys this week to draft an ordinance requiring hotels in unincorporated areas to provide various protections for workers, including “panic button” devices and restrictions on daily working hours.

The proposed ordinance, which will be brought back to the board for final approval once it is drafted, will be mirrored after those already in place in cities including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Glendale and West Hollywood.

The city of Los Angeles adopted its ordinance last year after it was submitted through a petition drive initiative backed by members of the Unite Here Local 11 union, which is currently striking against dozens of Southland hotels seeking higher wages and benefits.

“Hotel workers who work by themselves in guest rooms are vulnerable to inappropriate, threatening, and sometimes criminal behavior, including sexual assault,” according to a motion by county Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis. “Ensuring that hotel workers are equipped with personal security devices and supported in their ability to report criminal and

threatening behavior to the proper authorities will promote their personal safety from criminal threats and improve public safety overall.”

The motion also contends that hotel housekeepers are often given “overly burdensome room cleaning quotas,” forcing them to work long hours, while other workers are ``frequently assigned unexpected and mandatory overtime, which limits their ability to meet family and personal commitments.”

During Tuesday's meeting, Horvath said the county “must do everything we can to protect the safety of our hotel workers and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect.” Solis noted that women “make up the vast majority of hotel workers in the county of Los Angeles, especially immigrant women and women of color.”

The board motion instructs county attorneys to draft and return to the board with an ordinance that would require:

— Personal security devices for employees who work in guest rooms or restrooms by themselves;

— Training for hotel workers on the use of the personal security devices;

— Prohibiting hotel employers from taking adverse actions against

workers who report threats or violence incidents to law enforcement;

— Hotels with less than 40 guest rooms could not require a room attendant to clean rooms amounting to more than 4,500 square feet in an eight-hour workday, unless the worker is paid double their salary for extra hours;

— Hotels with 40 or more rooms could not require an attendant to clean rooms amounting to more than 3,500 square feet in any eight-hour workday, unless the worker receives double pay for extra hours;

— Preventing workers from working more than 10 hours in a day, unless the worker consents in writing; and

— Requiring hotels to contract with a certified Public Housekeeping Training Organization to provide housekeeping training to new employees.

Several hotel-industry representatives spoke in opposition to the proposed ordinance, citing the costs of the regulations and the difficulty adhering to the square-footage requirements.

Robin Wolfe, a hotel general manager in Marina del Rey, told the board the requirements would force hotel to hire additional housekeeping staff, while also calling the double-time penalties for exceeding the requirements “excessive.”

She urged the board “to please study the impact on areas that have already implemented this ordinance.”

A representative for the Marina del Rey Tourism Board said the regulation will lead to an increase in hotel rates, while a Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce official said the rules will be burdensome to small businesses, noting the cost of purchasing and maintaining panic button systems, and warning that those costs could lead to workers being laid off.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger abstained from the vote, expressing concerns about the economics of the proposed ordinance “and how it's going to impact the industry.”

“I don't want to see people laid off as a result,” Barger said.

She said she fully supports protecting the safety of workers.