Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Over the past few years, cities and counties have gotten into the business of regulating the workplace, an area previously reserved to federal and state governments. Many local jurisdictions have focused particular attention on the hospitality industry, which often is one of the primary drivers of a local economy.1
At the start of the trend, local ordinances focused on pushing for “panic buttons” for housekeeping staff. More recently, the scope of local regulations has expanded to include limits on workload, the right to recall, and training. New local laws governing the hospitality industry are in effect in such locations as Washington State, Chicago, Illinois, Miami Beach, Florida, and Oakland, Los Angeles,2 West Hollywood, and Long Beach, California. We can now add Glendale, California to that list.
The City of Glendale was faced with a petition from citizens for a new initiative regulating the hospitality industry, for possible placement on the ballot in an upcoming election. Rather than allow the initiative to go to the voters, the city council chose to adopt the proposed petition in its entirety as a city ordinance. The new ordinance is called the Hotel Workers Protection Ordinance.
The Ordinance: creates a local minimum wage, limits mandatory overtime, establishes maximum square footage requirements for housekeepers, and requires “panic buttons” for workers assigned to clean rooms alone. The Ordinance further establishes remedies for hotel workers for violations of these new requirements.
The new Ordinance goes into effect on July 27, 2022. The highlights are discussed below:
Personal Security Devices Now Required
- Panic buttons. A personal security device must now be provided to hotel workers who may activate it if they reasonably believe that violent or threatening conduct is occurring in their presence. A hotel worker is entitled to a security device (typically a personal alarm worn like a necklace), which transmits a signal to a designated security guard who must be able to receive alerts from this device and provide immediate on-scene assistance. This requirement applies to all hotels in Glendale, regardless of size.
- Notices. New notices will be required on the back of hotel room doors advising of this law and stating that hotel staff are equipped with personal alarms. There are detailed requirements for the required room notice.
- Training requirements. Training on this Ordinance is required by August 25, 2022 and thereafter must take place at least annually. A hotel has 30 days to train any subsequent new hires on the requirements of the Ordinance. If a hotel designates a manager or supervisor to respond to panic button alarms, it must provide at least three hours of training to the manager or supervisor on several specific required elements for handling such emergencies.
Hotel Workers’ Rights – Personal Security Devices
- A hotel employer may not take any adverse action against a hotel worker for activating their alarm, or by ceasing work to await security assistance after activating an alarm, unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence they knowingly and intentionally made a false claim of emergency.
- If a hotel worker informs the employer about violent or threatening conduct by a hotel guest, they are afforded several rights, including:
- Paid time to report incidents to law enforcement and to consult with a counselor or advisor of their choice.
- Reasonable accommodations (upon request), including but not limited to a modified work schedule, reassignment, adjustment to job structure, location of workplace facility, or other work requirements.
The ordinance also prohibits an employer from attempting to report such conduct to law enforcement, and prohibits employer from threatening or taking any adverse action against a hotel worker based on their decision not to report an incident to law enforcement.
New Workload and Compensation Rules*
There are new workload limitations, or quotas, in this Ordinance:
Number of Rooms
Maximum Sq Feet Permitted
Overtime or Rule Imposed
May only clean a max of 4,000 sq feet in 8 hours
2x the regular rate of pay for every hour worked. NOTE: double-time rate does not just apply to hours worked in excess of eight, it applies to ALL hours worked on that day.
40 or more
May only clean a max of 3,500 sq feet in 8 hours
2x the regular rate of pay for every hour worked, same as above.
6 or more check out rooms** or additional bedrooms assigned
Space shall count as 500 sq feet for quota rule
Assigned to clean hotel floor spaces, meeting rooms or other guest room.
Space shall count as 500 sq feet for each additional space cleaned, for quota rule
* These rules may be superseded by a collective bargaining agreement but only if the waiver in the agreement is clear and unambiguous.
**A check out room means a guest rooms to be cleaned due to the departure of the guest on their checkout day.
A hotel employer in Glendale is required to retain records showing room attendant cleaning assignments for three years. Further, if a worker is assigned fewer than eight hours of work in a day, all of the limits in the Ordinance are prorated. Likewise, the limits are to be increased on a prorated basis for each hour of overtime that a room attendant works in excess of eight hours in a workday.
A hotel employer shall not require or permit a hotel worker to work more than 10 hours in a workday unless the hotel worker consents in writing to do so. The employer may not subject the employee to adverse employment action for declining to work more than 10 hours in a workday. There are exceptions to this overtime rule in case of emergency, which is defined as an “immediate threat to public safety or of substantial risk of property loss or destruction.”
New Minimum Wage for Hotel Workers – Tethered to LA’s rates
By September 24, 2022, each hotel employer shall pay their hotel workers a new minimum wage of $17.64 or the hourly wage rate for hotel workers pursuant to the ordinance in Los Angeles, Municipal Code Section 186.02, whichever is higher.
In addition, on July 1, 2023, and annually thereafter, hotel employers must pay their workers no less than the hourly wage rate for workers pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 186.02, as annually adjusted. Once the City of Los Angeles Office of Wage Standards announces the adjusted wage required pursuant to their ordinance, the City of Glendale will announce its own wage rate for hotel employees within 30 days.
Strict Anti-Retaliation and Enforcement Options
- If a hotel employer in Glendale knows that an employee has engaged in activities under the Ordinance, and then takes adverse employment action against the employee within one year preceding the adverse action, the employer must provide a detailed written statement to the employee identifying the reasons for their discharge or other adverse action, including all facts claimed to substantiate the reason or reasons.
- A worker may bring a civil action against the hotel for violations of any of the above protections. The hotel is liable for actual damages suffered by the worker, and statutory damages of $100 per aggrieved person per day. The statutory damages for failure to maintain records will not exceed $1,000 per day for all affected hotel workers, so it is capped regardless of how many workers the hotel employs (unlike violations for other parts of this law which are not capped.)
- The Ordinance provides for treble damages for willful violations.
- The city attorney, or any aggrieved person, may file an Injunction against the hotel for violations of this Ordinance.
- Attorney’s fees and costs may be awarded to the prevailing plaintiff, including costs (such as expert witness fees).
Can a Hotel Obtain a Waiver?
Glendale hotels may obtain a waiver from the requirements of the Ordinance, if the hotel employer can demonstrate that compliance would require the hotel employer to reduce its workforce by more than 20%, or curtail all workers’ hours by more than 30% in order to avoid bankruptcy or a shutdown of the hotel. In such cases, the City “shall grant” a waiver. Prior to even applying for a waiver, the hotel must supply a copy of its waiver application to all employees. A waiver is good for one year. The City’s determination on a waiver may be appealed to a hearing examiner. Regardless of the determination regarding a waiver request, the hotel must provide written notice to the hotel workers of the outcome of the request within three days.
An interesting twist
This ordinance was implemented as a result of a proposed ballot measure, which qualified as a result of obtaining the necessary number of signatures. The City’s option was to either submit the initiative for a vote at the next municipal election (which is not until March 5, 2024), call for a special election, or just adopt the initiative as written, without changes. The city council chose to adopt the measure without alteration. As a result, this ordinance includes a clause stating the Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance may not be amended or repealed except by a vote of the people of the City of Glendale. Therefore, any modifications or alterations to this law cannot simply be effectuated by action of the city council. The Los Angeles ordinance, on the other hand, can be modified by a city council action.
Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute continues to monitor cities and counties as they further attempt to regulate the workplace, and will continue to report on ongoing developments in this area.
1 See, e.g., Joy C. Rosenquist, Bruce Sarchet, and Michael J. Lotito, Panic Buttons and Workload Limits: Los Angeles Hotel Workers Get New Protections, Littler Insight (July 8, 2022); Bruce Sarchet, West Hollywood, California Adopts Comprehensive Hotel Worker Ordinance with Right to Recall, littler Insight (Aug. 5, 2021); Patrick Stokes and Bruce Sarchet, Oakland, California Passes Ballot Measure Targeting Hotel Employers and Creating New Enforcement Mechanisms for Employment-Related Ordinances, Littler Insight (Nov. 20, 2018); Shiva Shirazi Davoudian and Alexandria Witte, City of Los Angeles Enacts Mandatory Right to Recall and Worker Retention Ordinances, Littler Insight (May 7, 2020); Long Beach, California Follows Los Angeles and Enacts its Own Mandatory Right of Recall and Worker Retention Ordinances, Littler Insight (May 26, 2020); Shanthi Gaur, Jennifer Jones and Melissa Logan, Illinois’ New #MeToo-Inspired Law Creates Sweeping Employer Obligations, Littler Insight (Aug. 13, 2019); Corinn Jackson and Bruce Sarchet, Don't "Panic": A New Legislative Trend for Hotel Employers?, Littler Podcast (May 24, 2018).
2 In addition to the new Los Angeles ordinance mandating panic buttons and imposing workload limits for hotel employees, in May 2020 Los Angeles enacted two other ordinances creating a mandatory right to recall and worker retention protections for certain hospitality employers. See Shiva Shirazi Davoudian and Alexandria Witte, City of Los Angeles Enacts Mandatory Right to Recall and Worker Retention Ordinances, Littler Insight (May 7, 2020).