Workers at eight hotels near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have alleged that management at the hotels has failed to pay them tips and service fees they are owed, as required by city law.
The employees filed lawsuits in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday, September 5th, against LAX-area hotels, including, the Four Points, Marriott, Renaissance, Embassy Suites, Courtyard, Westin, Hilton and Radisson, 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 Los Angeles 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 LAX-area 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.
The living wage ordinance has since been rescinded by the City Council following a lawsuit filed by the hotels, but the service charge and worker retention ordinances remain in effect.
Attorneys for the hotel workers claimed in the new lawsuit that despite the service charge law, the eight hotels continue to “pocket” the fees that they are collecting on behalf of their service employees.
The attorneys allege that the workers are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, as the eight hotels receive between $5 million and $6 million in banquet business each year.
“It’s unfortunate that these hard-working men and women, who make up the basis for the hotels to make their profits, are not being compensated in a fair way and in a way that the law requires,” said Josh Piovia-Scott, an attorney representing the hotel employees.
Piovia-Scott added that in addition to failing to pass on the service fees owed to their employees, the hotels are “misleading and deceiving” customers who believe that the fees they are charged are being paid to the service workers.
But a spokesman for the hotels rejected those claims, saying that the lawsuit filed by the workers is just another effort by the local union Unite Here Local 11 in the push to organize the workers.
“The Century Corridor hotels are in full compliance with the law,” said Ruben Gonzalez, spokesman for the hotels. “This is yet another tactic in the union campaign to force these businesses to accept Unite Here Local 11 without a vote of the employees.
“The hotels will once again stand by their workers’ right to choose, through a free and fair election, whether or not they want Unite Here Local 11 to represent them.”
Piovia-Scott claimed that since the service charge ordinance went into effect at the beginning of the year, none of the eight LAX-area hotels have changed their practices to ensure that the service fees are being passed on to the workers as required.
The attorney for the hotels said evidence that the fees are not being passed on has been found on paychecks for the employees that list their wage amount but not their service fees earned.
James Elmendorf, senior policy analyst for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a group that has helped spearhead the living wage effort, said he was “disappointed” at the hotels’ alleged violation of the service fee ordinance.
“The hotels try to do anything to maximize their profit and they do so at the expense of the workers,” Elmendorf said.
He expressed confidence that the hotel employees will win their case in court.
“We feel very confident going in that the workers will ultimately win justice,” Elmendorf said.