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WHAT WE DO® 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.


Attorney of the Week
Denney Law Group

Some of the clients with whom we have been privileged to work over the years have been in industries as diverse as bespoke letterpress printing, commercial landscaping, member-based private air travel, turn-key retail development, medical, and non-profit, as well as myriad restaurants, bars, private chefs, caterers, breweries, wineries and distilleries. Denney Law Group- our small firm is agile: an efficient ninja strike force, capable of adapting and turning on a dime – not a battleship that is impossibly slow to turn. Denney Law Group, like your business, is a start-up. We understand what you need and why. We also know that, despite your individuality, you will likely face many of the same challenges faced by those who preceded you. We love being attorneys, but sometimes working with growing companies requires more than just lawyering. We get it. That’s why we are so often called upon by our clients as trusted advisors, providing advice, encouragement, and (surprisingly often) hugs.

Law Firm of the Week
Eckert Seamans

Eckert Seamans is a full-service national law firm with a strong reputation and history of success that spans more than 60 years. With more than 350 lawyers and government affairs professionals across a network of 15 offices, we provide clients with proactive, solution-oriented business and litigation counsel. Eckert Seamans was established in 1958 to meet the needs of some of the leading businesses in the country. Although our practice was limited to only 10 clients at the time, our founders formed key and enduring client partnerships in those early days, seven of which the firm still serves today. This commitment to building lasting relationships with our clients remains one of the hallmarks of our firm. Our clients trust us to guide them through their most challenging legal issues, most significant business transactions, and most critical disputes, which often cross practices and jurisdictions. Whether a Fortune 500 company, family-owned business, start-up, nonprofit, government entity, or individual, our clients receive the attention of highly skilled attorneys through our coordinated, multi-disciplinary team approach.

Company of the Week

We believe that we’re only as good as the good we do. All the facts and figures that talk to our size and diversity and years of history, as notable and important as they may be, are secondary to the truest measure of Deloitte: The impact we make in the world. So, when people ask, “What’s different about Deloitte?” the answer resides in the many specific examples of where we have helped Deloitte member firm clients, our people, and sections of society to achieve remarkable goals, solve complex problems, or make meaningful progress. Deeper still, it’s in the beliefs, behaviors, and fundamental sense of purpose that underpin all that we do. With more than 150 years of hard work and commitment to making a real difference, our organization has grown in scale and diversity—approximately 245,000 people in 150 countries and territories, providing audit & assurance, tax, legal, risk and financial advisory and consulting services—yet our shared culture remains the same.

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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.

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.

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On the Basis of Personal Appearance

As you know, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) is one of the principal federal statutes prohibiting employment discrimination. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex (including gender and pregnancy). Other federal statutes that prohibit employment discrimination include Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). But, employers must also be aware of state and local laws that extend protection beyond these federally protected classes. In the District of Columbia, for example, it is a violation of the law to discriminate on the basis of personal appearance, a category of protected class that has caused employers significant confusion with respect to what kinds of dress and grooming policies they may lawfully enforce. So what does personal appearance discrimination mean? And what should employers do to minimize their legal risk and ensure they do not run afoul of such laws?

Under the D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA), personal appearance is one of 20 protected traits for people that live, visit or work in D.C. Personal appearance is defined as the outward appearance of any person, irrespective of sex, with regard to bodily condition or characteristics, manner or style of dress, and manner or style of personal grooming, including, but not limited to, hair style and beards. To flesh this out, the D.C. Office of Human Rights, which administers the DCHRA, issued enforcement guidance in September 2017 to provide an explanation of this less understood protected category. It clarified that a person may not be discriminated against based on the individual’s actual or perceived “personal appearance,” which means employers may not refuse to hire someone, for example, because the individual wears a head scarf or has dreadlocks. The guidance document even provides an illustrative example of this. It states that, if Michael has a beard and applies for a job as a receptionist of a business office, where the job announcement requires applicants to have 3-5 years of experience and Michael possesses 5-6 years of experience as a front desk receptionist, the business employer cannot refuse to hire or consider Michael, a qualified applicant, because of his beard.

But, there are some limits to this rule. As the enforcement guidance makes clear, an employer can establish requirements for cleanliness, uniforms or other standards as long as the established standard is for a reasonable business purpose (e.g., for maintaining the health and safety of all individuals) and applied uniformly to everyone. This is often referred to as the “prescribed standards” exception, and is successfully argued by showing the following three elements: (1) the existence of prescribed standards; (2) uniform application of the standards to a class of employees; and (3) a reasonable business purpose for the prescribed standards. So, in our example, if Michael is hired, in most cases, the business employer may require that Michael adhere to the company’s established grooming standards along with all other employees, unless Michael has a religious reason for his beard. Unfortunately, however, the enforcement guidance, while certainly helpful, may have oversimplified this exception.

In the real-life context, employers have asked some tricky questions. What qualifies as a “reasonable business purpose”? How specific or broad should prescribed dress and grooming standards be? And what if we do not enforce the standards all the time because we have a lax enforcement policy or inadvertently miss a case or two? While advice from legal counsel can provide tailored answers to the first two questions, what is nearly certain about the last is that, if an employer does not enforce its dress and grooming standards, it is opening itself up to major legal risk. This is because, as described above, uniform application is a required element for employers to claim the “prescribed standards” exception. Furthermore, personal appearance discrimination claims are subject to the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework that we described in a prior post. That is, if a plaintiff alleges employment discrimination through the use of indirect evidence, the plaintiff must show that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) the unfavorable action gave rise to an inference of discrimination. One way for a plaintiff to demonstrate that an unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of discrimination is to present evidence of disparate treatment. This is often done by showing that she was treated differently than similarly situated employees outside of her protected class. Accordingly, if an employer does not enforce its dress and grooming standards consistently, it makes plaintiff’s case stronger, which is at least one reason why strict enforcement of such standards is so crucial.

Furthermore, although only a small number of jurisdictions extend anti-discrimination protections to personal appearance, this area of law is growing and is often intrinsically connected to other protected classes. For example, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) issued new guidelines in February 2019 stating that employer policies on grooming and appearance that target, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hair or hairstyles may be unlawful and could result in a penalty of up to $250,000 per violation. This is because NYCCHR determined that black hairstyles are an inherent part of black identity, and therefore, should be protected racial characteristics. The guidance notes that protections extend to the right to maintain “natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities.” While the guidelines specifically focus on black communities, the protections extend to other groups, including those who identify as Latin-x/a/o, Indo-Caribbean, Native American, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Nazirites, and/or Rastafarians.

So what can employers do to minimize their legal risk and ensure they do not run afoul of any anti-discrimination personal appearance laws? As noted above, advice from legal counsel will assist in determining whether an employer’s business purpose is reasonable under the law, and whether its prescribed dress and grooming standards are written in a way that best shield the employer from potential claims. This is often done through a review of the employer’s dress and grooming standards in its employee handbook. Typically, a broader set of standards with legally protected carve outs (e.g., for religious and disability accommodations, health and safety concerns, etc.) is advisable. It is also prudent to enforce the standards uniformly and consistently. Other concerns, such as keeping the standards gender-neutral, should also be considered.

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Risk Mitigation Measures for LGBTQ Personnel

Discussing sexually sensitive subject matter with students or employees ensures their awareness of and mitigates associated risks. Different countries present different societal attitudes on issues such as public displays of affection, projection of sexuality in dress and mannerisms, and LGBTQ concerns; traveler safety and health depend on those travelers receiving accurate and timely information about their destination. As a result, travel and risk managers need to be comfortable having a conversation with their travelers that involves human sexuality. These conversations must be handled delicately to avoid violating privacy, causing offense, or being insensitive to private issues. That said, there are compelling global security and health concerns that make this aspect of duty of care imperative for organizations.

Start the Conversation
The reality is that many areas of the world still heavily discriminate against the LGBTQ community and criminalize expressions of sexuality. Travel and risk managers do not necessarily need to know the sexual preferences or sexual identities of their travelers to counsel them about the cultural and societal attitudes present at their destinations. Presenting a comprehensive overview in a matter-of-fact manner can side-step the need to pry into a person’s personal life while also setting up an environment conducive to deeper conversations and questions as necessary.

Understand LGBTQ Health Risks
Healthcare options may be especially limited for transgender individuals, who may need specialty medical care at their destination. These individuals may struggle to find needed medications or obtain a refill should they run out. Anti-hormone transition drugs suppress levels of testosterone to allow estrogens to take prominence but may have adverse effects on the heart. LGBTQ individuals may encounter challenges finding medical care and may be dissuaded from providing a complete medical history in areas that present a high threat for LGBTQ patients.

Most countries restrict the amount of medication travelers can enter with according to the length of the stay. In many instances, a maximum of 90 days of prescription medication may cross borders.

For expatriates, having a doctor’s note on letterhead, with the patient’s full name, medication name, dosage, and reason are required for refills and importation of prescription medication to many countries. The reason (diagnosis) may be especially challenging if traveling to a conservative country with a known low tolerance for the LGBTQ community and may present security challenges.

Surgery of any kind increases the risk of blood clots during flight. LGBTQ patients who have recently undergone surgical procedures should ensure adequate time between surgeries and flights. Some hormone therapies (especially estrogens) also place patients at risk for deep venous thromboses (DVT): blood clots that form in the legs and may become life-threatening if the clot or part of the clot travels to the lungs.

In more socially liberal countries, unconscious bias from healthcare workers may lead to substandard care. LGBTQ individuals need to be prepared to encounter these attitudes and be able to advocate for their care and proper treatment. Risk managers and travelers should research cultural tolerances and potential biases to determine if an advanced arrangement with a “preferred” treatment center is necessary.

Key Takeaways
Ensuring the safety of your LGBTQ personnel and students starts with a conversation. Transgender travelers require a duty-of-care policy that helps them prepare for the challenges they may face abroad. Ensuring the safety and health of these unique travelers is a corporate responsibility.

About WorldAware
WorldAware provides intelligence-driven, integrated risk management solutions that enable multinational organizations to operate globally with confidence. WorldAware’s end-to-end tailored solutions, integrated world-class threat intelligence, innovative technology, and response services help organizations mitigate risk and protect their people, assets, and reputations.

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Developing a New Approach to Harassment Prevention in the Era of #MeToo

Based upon 25 years of litigating harassment claims, and more than 20 years of training managers on harassment avoidance, I have reached a simple, and perhaps obvious, conclusion – that is, the “traditional” anti-harassment training used by most employers simply do not work. Whether training occurs online or in person, it almost always starts with a legal definition, a discussion of the different types of harassment, and ends with various “common” scenarios for employees to ponder. Despite providing such training year in and year out:

  • in the last 10 years, Title VII filings involving harassment have increased by nearly 700%;
  • nearly 50% of women report experiencing some form of harassment at work at least once;
  • according to a recent NY Times poll, nearly 1/3 of men reported doing something at work within the past year that would qualify as objectionable behavior or harassment; and
  • on October 15, 2017, Alyssa Milano tweeted a request to reply if you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, and she received over one million mentions – by the next day.

And one can hardly forget the steady stream of business executives, entertainment moguls, and political leaders scandalized their organizations with outrageous details of men behaving badly. So where have employers, and those who work with them to get it right, gone wrong? Why are the herculean efforts of HR departments calming the rising tide of harassing behavior?

The answer is that we are focusing too much on what not to do under the law (and what we have to do to have a potential defense to liability), rather than providing employees and their managers with tools on how to create positive work relationships and foster psychological safety in their work groups. To be sure, harassing behavior is more than the product of a bad employee; it is symptomatic of a toxic work environment. In such environs we often find:

  • An obsession with making the numbers, where outcomes are uncritically adopted;
  • Recruitment, promotion, and reward systems focus on individuals’ “strength of personality” or interpersonal aggressiveness while ignoring emotional intelligence;
  • Short-term planning governs operations;
  • Executives give higher priority to personal friendships than to legitimate business interests; and
  • Fear is a dominant, desired workplace emotion, whether deliberately engineered or inadvertently created.

Although there can be much discussion on the cultural causes of sexual harassment, what is clear is that workplace harassment allowed to ferment is the source of serious liability to business. It can be a sales dropping, share price lowering, brand tarnishing business killer. The #Metoo movement is a paradigm shift and call for a new approach to tackle this problem.

The good news is that we have a number of innovators who are solving parts of the problem, and their work can be brought together to form a new training regime that works to prevent harassment. I commend to you Professors Christine Pearson and Christine Porath and their work, “How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it.” Leonardo Inghilleri’s work on training empathic skills to hospitality employees, and of course Google’s Project Aristotle and its steps for developing effective teams.

So, what is working? Training that includes protocols which teach employees and more importantly managers on how to foster good working relationship in their workgroups. We recommend revamping sexual harassment avoidance training to include 6 protocols.

  1. Developing an employee “how can I help you” culture;
  2. Techniques to project empathy or at least the appearance;
  3. Routine steps to handling any employee concern;
  4. Managing the unexpected;
  5. Using the most respectful language possible with random acts of kindness; and
  6. Bystander training.

A prevention program built around these principles will help employers to do more than just comply with the law – it will reinforce the notion that everyone plays a critical role in preventing workplace harassment (or any other kind of misconduct for that matter) and creating a successful workplace culture. It will also empower employees with the tools to step in and stop it. These, in turn, will help employers to achieve their business goals – from decreasing harassment occurrences to improving performance and morale. It is hard to argue against such benefits. It is clear, change is rapidly occurring and this next generation workforce is not silent.

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