More than a month after workers at eight hotels near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) filed lawsuits alleging that the hotels owe them tips, a Los Angeles City Council committee is calling for an investigation of the charges.

The City Council Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee voted Wednesday, October 17th, to direct the city attorney and chief legislative analyst to begin an investigation into allegations against the eight LAX-area hotels that they violated the city’s service charge ordinance.

The committee also called for the city attorney to make recommendations for City Council action to ensure that worker and customer rights are protected.

Employees at the eight hotels — the Four Points, Marriott, Renaissance, Embassy Suites, Courtyard, Westin, Hilton and Radisson — filed lawsuits in county Superior Court in early September, alleging that the hotels violated a city ordinance requiring them to pass along all service fees automatically charged for large events directly to the service workers.

The hotel service charge reform ordinance took effect January 1st after it was passed by the City Council in November as part of a package of ordinances for the airport-area hotels on Century Boulevard in Westchester.

The two other ordinances in the package required that the hotels pay their service workers a “living wage” and that the workers be allowed to keep their jobs for at least 90 days after a hotel changes owners.

Workers allege that despite the service charge law, the hotels have continued to pocket the fees that they are collecting on behalf of their employees. Some of the hotel workers alleged at the council committee hearing that the hotels have not changed their practices to comply with the requirements of the ordinance.

The Travel, Commerce and Tourism Committee has directed the city attorney to return within 30 days to recommend ways that the council can strengthen the penalties provided for in the ordinance.

The committee recommended that the city attorney explore requirements that companies found to be in violation should be required to notify customers of their violations, explore other penalties and consider creating enforcement mechanisms to monitor compliance.

The hotels have rejected the claims in the employees’ lawsuit, saying that they are in “full compliance” with the law.

A spokesman for the hotels has said the lawsuit is just another effort by the local union Unite Here Local 11 to push to organize the hotel workers.

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