Find A Lawyer
Find A Law Firm
Find An Expert
Find A Vendor

WHAT WE DO

HospitalityLawyer.com® converges legal, safety, and security solutions for the hotel, food and beverage, private club, meeting, event, and corporate travel industries.

We are a worldwide network of attorneys that focus on hospitality, travel and tourism issues; a marketing conduit for suppliers of legal, safety and security solutions to reach hospitality developers and operators in need of those solutions; we mitigate critical incidents, injuries, litigation and liability within the hospitality industry, in the U.S. and abroad by facilitating the creation, collection, and dissemination of legal, safety and security information, products and services.

WEEKLY SPOTLIGHT

Attorney of the Week
Greg Duff

Throughout Greg’s 20+ year career working exclusively in the hospitality industry, he has dedicated himself to helping clients solve the range of “back of house” legal issues associated with owning and operating a modern hospitality operation – from advising on the use of ever-evolving technologies to navigating the complex relationships among owners, operators, regulators and vendors/suppliers. In addition to founding GSB’s national Hospitality, Travel and Tourism group, Greg serves as the Firm’s Chair, a role in which he oversees management of day-to-day operations and strategic direction in partnership with the Firm’s Executive Committee and professional managers.

Law Firm of the Week
Gray Robinson

GrayRobinson is a full-service law and lobbying firm with attorneys and government relations professionals throughout offices spanning the State of Florida and Washington, DC. Our attorneys, consultants and regulatory professionals provide legal and government relations services to our clients throughout Florida, our nation’s capital, across the country and all over the world. GrayRobinson provides services to Fortune 500 companies, emerging businesses, lending institutions, local and state governments, developers, entrepreneurs and individuals. We offer not only an extensive range of services but also depth and proficiency in each one.

Company of the Week
EthicsSuite

Identify, investigate and resolve alleged wrongdoing at your organization in a simple, affordable, private and confidential manner. Ethics Suite provides a comprehensive platform for the anonymous reporting and tracking of workplace misconduct, fraud, or theft designed for industry-wide reporting. Employee tipoffs continue to be the most common method for fraud detection. With affordable subscriptions for businesses of any size, Ethics Suite offers a confidential, independent, and anonymous method designed for any employee to report to their employer any conduct that may be unethical, illegal, or in violation of workplace policies or professional conduct standards.

While You're Here:

Find lawyers, law firms and companies which focus on hotel, restaurant, and travel law, as well the duty of care owed by businesses to traveling employees in our extensive directories.

Browse our resources for articles and white papers, access training and downloadable forms and solutions to assist in mitigating liability, and check out our groundbreaking conferences for intensive education, exceptional networking, and unequaled crisis management training.

Subscribe to our CONVERGE Blog and Newsletter for valuable insights from hospitality and travel risk management experts. Our blog features exclusive content from our contributors, who collectively represent the full spectrum of hospitality law, risk management and comprehensive duty of care solutions.

The Latest from Converge...

Our CONVERGE BLOG focuses on legal, safety, and security challenges for Hospitality, Travel, Travel Vendors and Corporate Travel Buyers as individuals and businesses.
Our blog features exclusive content from our contributors, who collectively represent the full spectrum of hospitality law, risk management and comprehensive duty of care solutions.

Europe Seeing Increase in Climate Change Protests

Climate protests have gained traction in Europe in the past six months. Various eco-activist groups and individuals are protesting perceived inaction by governments and corporations to avert climate-related disasters. Eco-activists, including groups like Extinction Rebellion and Smash Cruises, have staged frequent and intensely disruptive actions throughout Europe in the past several months. These actions have disrupted ground and air transit routes throughout Europe but have so far remained peaceful. These groups are likely to continue to gain support in the coming months and may find individuals willing to engage in more disruptive and potentially violent actions in the medium and long term.

Background of Eco-activism 

Mainstream climate activist groups like Greenpeace and more-covert groups like the Earth Liberation Front have been active for several decades. Their actions have included raising awareness, staging protests, disrupting fishing industries, and occasionally acts of arson. Climate activists have been generally committed to nonviolence and bottom-up change, especially because their ideas generally are well-accepted by the population and politicians in Western Europe and North America.

Contemporary Activism in Europe

New actors have emerged on the eco-activism scene over the past year in response to the increased visibility of climate change effects and a growing public perception that government responses are inadequate. These activists have, in a very short time frame, secured a large number of followers and brought substantial attention to the threats posed by climate change. Greta Thurnberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who began protesting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 to raise awareness on the need for immediate action to combat climate change, has over 2 million followers on Instagram and has attracted worldwide attention. Extinction Rebellion, a climate movement formed in October 2018, already has 250,000 followers on Instagram and has chapters all over the world. In the world of political activism on Instagram, this number of followers is significant, and has also grown rapidly; they have each amassed hundreds of thousands of followers in less than a year. This demonstrates interest among the population in following these types of accounts.

Both Thurnberg and Extinction Rebellion have directly or indirectly contributed to various climate activism actions. Students from across Europe, inspired by Greta, have protested every Friday since August 2018 under the motto “Fridays for Future” and gained traction when they skipped school for a day to take part in large demonstrations calling for action on climate change. Extinction Rebellion has staged disruptive actions in multiple counties, but primarily in the UK. The UK protests include blocking roads during rush hours and a demonstration in front of the Scottish Parliament when some activists chained themselves to street poles. Other, smaller grassroots organizations have undertaken similar actions. Smasscruiseshit, a small group of activists from Germany, used boats to block a large cruise ship in the port of Hamburg, Germany as they demanded curbs on the emissions caused by the cruise industry. Additionally, thousands in Venice protested the environmental damage caused to the Venetian lagoon by cruise ships.

So far, although disruptive, these actions have not caused significant property damage. Most of the actions are advertised on social media, which allows travelers to be warned in time to avoid disruptions. However, with momentum on the side of climate activists, actions are likely to become larger and more disruptive in the long and medium-term. This larger scale of action will likely cause it to be more difficult for travelers and businesses to avoid disruptive actions undertaken by climate activists.

Future of the Movement

Growing participation and frustration with the lack of results that peaceful activism is producing may undermine climate activism’s commitment to non-violence. The central grievance of many climate activist groups, the notion of a climate catastrophe that could result in food shortages, drought, and tens of millions of ecological refugees, has strengthened and encouraged the activists’ perceived need to act attention and more visibility. This resolve could lead eco-activists to undertake more drastic actions such as engage in sabotage, arson, and usage of improvised explosive devices against governments and large corporations, especially corporations that cause significant pollution and or contribute to the perceived climate catastrophe. More radical elements of the climate activism movement would commit to these sorts of attacks to draw more attention and visibility to their cause. Such attacks would become more likely if demands for more climate protection are not met. Travelers should avoid all protests as a routine security precaution and to mitigate associated disruptions. Those in the Europe should follow alerts for demonstrations and activities that might cause disruptions to supply chains. It would also behoove companies to monitor disruptive climate activism events in countries where they have assets.

Read more

All The World’s A Stage: Legal Factors to Keep in Mind Before Signing a Location Agreement

When location scouts for movies, TV shows or other special events come to check out a hotel, hotel owners or managers have reason to be excited and cautious.  The property may receive a location fee for the filming, and the buzz, visibility and social media bounce that come with location filming can be hard to put a price on. Location agreements, even those with high dollar values involved, are often presented only a few days before a shoot. If you want to have your hotel or property featured in a film or TV show, you will have to act quickly. The typical location agreement sent by the production company is a short one-page document, but there are complex legal issues involved. Because filming agreements move quickly, and the production company likely had its lawyers draft the agreement, it’s important for a hotel or property manager to also have an equally experienced lawyer of their own review the proposed agreement and negotiate it before committing the hotel or property to the project. Below are some key factors to consider when transforming your property into a Hollywood soundstage:

  • Seeing your Name in Lights: Before you sign a location agreement, you need to understand the nature of the filming and think carefully about the use of your hotel. Do you want the goodwill of your name being shared in the movie or show? If so, do you have the rights to your hotel name? If your hotel is branded, you may need the approval of the brand under the franchise agreement.
  • In it for the Money: Depending on your property and the filming schedule, some production companies will pay lucratively for the use of your property. Don’t be afraid to ask for a location fee. This is a business negotiating point to keep in mind, particularly when balancing risks and benefits to your property.
  • Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover: Before making any final decisions about participation in the shoot, you should fully understand what is being filmed at your hotel, particularly if your name is being used or your property is easily identifiable. What actions are being taken at your property, or what is going to be said about your hotel? Some production companies will allow for a script read in advance to provide an opportunity for sign-off on the dialogue, in case there are issues involved with the portrayal of your property. You may also want to request language regarding the portrayal of your property in the final movie or show. Remember that the production company will own the footage in perpetuity – with the hotel having little to no contractual remedy to prevent the use of the footage after it is shot – so you must address any remaining concerns before the filming commences.
  • Lights, Camera, Action: Is the production an action movie full of stunts conducted on the roof of your property, or does the hotel lobby set the scene for a romantic first kiss? The nature of the filming makes a difference for your risk allocation. You need an appropriate indemnity from the production company, evidence that it is appropriately insured (including you being named as additional insured on its applicable insurance policies), and to consider your preference for any dispute resolution. You should also address how to handle any damage to your hotel property that may result from the filming, and if the production company asks for a release, it should be negotiated prior to signing the location agreement.
  • Your Show Must Go On: In the location agreement, it is essential to document and detail where and when the production company will be filming. Your hotel is your business, and unless the production company is renting out your entire hotel (which is rare), you need language in the agreement regarding the treatment of your guests. You also need to collaborate in advance with the hotel management and staff to ensure the shoot does not materially inconvenience the guests, and that the hotel can comply with the requirements of the location agreement.
  • Who Was Voted Off: For many film shoots, particularly the ever-growing genre of reality television, confidentiality is of paramount importance to the production companies. Review these provisions carefully and consider whether the requested confidentiality restrictions are enforceable by your hotel management. The next step is to appropriately convey the message and instructions to your hotel staff regarding what they can and cannot do before, during, and after the filming.
  • Behind the Curtain: Keep in mind that there are intellectual property and licensing considerations which may need to be addressed depending on the nature of the filming. Language stating that the hotel grants the rights to the production company for all art and objects in and around the property is often in the location agreement, but is it accurate? Does your hotel own the licensing rights to the piece of art that will be featured in the guest room scene? If not, it must be addressed.
  • Sign on the Dotted Line: Who signs for the hotel is not always straight-forward. Under the hotel management agreement, the appropriate signatory for a location agreement may be the hotel owner, the hotel management company, or another construct such as the management company as an agent for the hotel owner. Either way, make sure that the agreement accurately reflects the appropriate signatory in the recitals and the signature block, and that the text of the location agreement accurately addresses the references to the signatory.
Read more

The Recent Rise Of Predictive Scheduling Laws: Emerging Strategies In An Evolving Area

For decades, the problem of scheduling has plagued employers and employees alike. Employees prefer predictable and reliable schedules, while employers need flexibility. To address this tension, regulators have recently begun to pass predictive scheduling laws that seek to strike a tenuous balance between these interests. Given the recent rise in popularity of these laws, it is important for you to understand what these laws are, where you are most likely to encounter them, and what steps you can take to make sure you’re abreast of the most up-to-date compliance strategies.

What Are Predictive Scheduling Laws?

Predictive scheduling laws are generally straightforward. In short, they require employers to post employee work schedules a set number of days in advance of when the work is to be performed. Once posted, however, employers are penalized for making any scheduling changes.

In theory, these laws seek to balance respective interests between employers and employees—a balance that was recently addressed in the landmark California decision, Ward v. Tilly’s. In that case, the court assumed the role of the employee’s champion and explained that schedule predictability was an absolute necessity that allowed employees to plan around second jobs, make child-care arrangements, coordinate school schedules, or commit to social plans, among other things. Glaringly absent from this analysis, however, was the employer’s perspective and concurrent recognition that scheduling changes and fluctuating staffing needs are often caused by unforeseeable market realities such as inclement weather, employee call-outs, and unposted community events.

In practice, unfortunately, legislators have expressed wide disagreement over how to address this problem, causing many jurisdictions to take wildly different approaches. For example, in New York City, certain employers are only required to post schedules 72 hours in advance, with changes thereafter being completely prohibited. In contrast, San Francisco requires employers to post schedules not less than two weeks in advance. Once posted, however, any changes require the employer to pay the affected employee anywhere between one and four hours of additional “Predictability Pay,” depending on how last-minute the change actually was. As these examples demonstrate, legislators have yet to agree on any centralized model for predictive scheduling laws, creating a potential minefield for those employers that attempt to apply consistent scheduling practices throughout multiple jurisdictions.

What Industries And Jurisdictions Have Been Most Affected?

Since the first predictive scheduling law arose in San Francisco several years ago, other states and major U.S. cities have contributed to a precipitous rise in these laws. Places like Oregon, New York City, Chicago, Seattle, and Philadelphia have all since participated in this rising regulatory experiment by respectively proposing and implementing their own unique frameworks.

Simultaneously, other states have actively sought to combat the rise of these practices. In the wake of San Francisco’s law, states like Georgia and Tennessee quickly implemented legislation that prohibited their own major cities from enacting similar predictive scheduling laws at the local level, seeking to stifle an already-emerging trend.

To date, however, the retail and hospitality industries have taken the brunt of the regulatory force, with the vast majority of predictive scheduling laws targeting these industries exclusively. As justification for this disparate treatment, legislators have pointed to the disproportionate number of low-wage workers present in these industries who they believe warrant greater protection. For these employees, securing a reliable schedule through traditional means, such as direct negotiation, is far less likely. Accordingly, in these industries, the employer-employee tension between scheduling flexibility and predictably is at its zenith.

So What Should You Do Now?

Unfortunately, compliance with predictive scheduling laws is far from easy. Larger employers with locations throughout multiple jurisdictions tend to be the most affected, although even smaller employers can find themselves in a position that requires a full overhaul of their current staffing model. Accordingly, it’s important to keep a few points in mind.

First, you should audit your locations. The piecemeal framework of predictive scheduling laws means that you may have multiple locations subject to different predictive scheduling requirements. As a result, a centralized staffing model can quickly become outdated, or even worse, a liability. Location-specific policy changes may need to be made, and managers may require retraining on how to handle staffing shortages.

Second, avoid the related pitfalls. No employment law exists in a vacuum, and predictive scheduling laws are no exception. Implementing predictive scheduling models will often impact other aspects of your business and, in some cases, could create unforeseen liability traps. For example, in San Francisco, forgetting to tell your payroll company to separately delineate the “Predictability Pay” scheduling change penalty on your employees’ wage statements could saddle you with a host of unexpected labor code violations and class action demand letters—all for a simple oversight.

Third, consider novel and creative approaches. To address the rise of these laws, some large companies have implemented the use of scheduling apps. In addition to viewing pre-posted schedules, employees can use the apps to swap shifts with coworkers or sign up for unfilled shifts in upcoming weeks. Although, even without apps, voluntary schedule swapping and sign-up policies are both phenomenal ways to reduce, and even eliminate, the need for last-minute scheduling changes—all while boosting employee morale.

Conclusion

Ultimately, when it comes to employment policies, there is rarely a “one size fits all” approach. What’s right for one company may not be right for another. As a result, it’s important to keep up to date on the newest changes in both law and compliance strategies. In the modern day, employment laws are changing at an ever-increasing pace; if the recent rise in predictive scheduling laws hasn’t hit your state or city just yet, it soon may.


For more information, contact the authors at CCook@fisherphillips.com (415.490.9032) or AGuzman@fisherphillips.com (415.490.9028).

Read more

What is the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry? (Why does It Matter?)

The Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI) was first published by a committee of the Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC) in 1926. The committee was chaired by E. M. Statler the founder of Statler Hotels. Among the other eight Proprietary Committee members were the then owners of The Waldorf Astoria, Hotel Astor, Hotel Willard and Hotel Commodore. The Accountants’ Committee included the comptrollers of those hotels and others including Hotel Pennsylvania, The Biltmore, The Plaza and, of course, the Statler Hotels Company. The committee was chaired by William J. Forster, CPA as in PKF. The New York State Society of CPAs and the AICPA were also represented.

The group saw the need for common financial language and to be able to compare statistics. It would also evolve that it would help in valuing hotels which at that time was done primarily by CPA firms. The common statistical formulas such as Revenues and Costs per Available Room and per Occupied Room, what denominator a re used for calculating various percentages evolved to be critical benchmarks for owners and managers even today.

In 1961 the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) published a separate edition for small hotels. That format, which was very similar to the larger hotel edition, was updated twice until 1996 when the two systems were combined. Until last year the copyright for the USALI was still owned by the HANYC but it recently sold the copyright to the Hotel Financial and Technology Professionals Association (HFTP) which is the successor to the original Accountant’s Committee.

Periodic revisions of the USALI, which are prepared every four to seven years, are written by the Financial Management Committee of the AH&LA. It is comprised primarily of representatives of hotel ownership and management but also includes representation from accounting, franchising, CBRE/PKF Research and Smith Travel Research.

The USALI is referenced in numerous types of agreements relating to the hotel industry such as mortgages, management agreements, franchise agreements, leases, and other documents. Important provisions in these agreements are tied to the USALI and impact base fees, termination, incentive fees, and other triggers or thresholds for both parties. Usually it is prefaced with the words, “the latest edition” in order to require the parties to keep current with latest standards. The latest edition is the 11 the Edition published in 2014. As in the past, it is consistent with US GAAP. Future editions are expected to become consistent with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Why are there successive editions? Because the hotel industry, its investors, the market and technology keep evolving. Think of things like market segmentation, distribution channels, telephone technology, guest room technology, etc. Also think of changes to payroll for instance, hotels don’t have Seamstresses anymore but we do have Social Media Managers.

Read more

OUR FEATURED ALLIANCES