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Court Gives Santa Monica Go-Ahead to Implement Housekeeper Workload Provisions

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

December 18, 2019 -- A U.S. District Court on Wednesday gave Santa Monica the go-ahead to implement the workload provisions in its hotel worker protection ordinance set to go into effect January 1.

Unanimously approved by the City Council in August, the provisions establish daily workload maximums for Santa Monica’s 2,100 hotel housekeepers ("Santa Monica Council Unanimously Approves Groundbreaking Hotel Ordinance," August 28, 2019).

The owner and operator of Le Merigot Hotel sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the provisions from going into effect, arguing that the ordinance is unconstitutional and invalid.

On Monday, Judge Otis Wright, a George W. Bush appointee, denied the request and found the plaintiffs "have not shown a likelihood of success on any of their claims," City officials said.

“The court has validated Santa Monica’s compassionate concern for the safety of hotel workers, whose hard labor makes possible our successful hospitality sector,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said in a statement.

Santa Monica's ordinance -- which also protects housekeepers from sexual violence -- dictates workloads normally negotiated by the hotel workers union.

It sets daily workload maximums of 4,000 square feet for hotels with less than 40 guest rooms and 3,500 square feet for hotels with more than 40 guest rooms.

It also requires a double overtime compensation rate for all hours worked in a workday when a housekeeper’s workload exceeds these maximums.

The law exempts union employees, whose workloads are typically heavier than those of non-union workers covered by the ordinance ("Most Union Housekeepers Have Heavier Workloads Than Required by Hotel Ordinance," September 9, 2019).

Wednesday's ruling is not the final say on the controversial workload provisions ("Long Beach Hotel Workers Ordinance Gets Hearing Next Month," September 17, 2019).

On January 8, a Los Angeles County Superior Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit filed by the California Hotel & Lodging Association that seeks to invalidate a similar Long Beach law approved by local voters in November 2018.

The lawsuit asks the court to grant a summary judgment, declare the workload provisions "void" and issue an injunction barring their enforcement.

Filed in January, the lawsuit argues that the Long Beach ordinance -- which like Santa Monica's sets maximum workloads for housekeepers -- is preempted by State law.

According to the lawsuit, the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 regulates the rate and pace of work "because it is an occupational safety and health standard."

"By expressing the limitation as a ratio of square footage cleaned in an eight-hour workday, (the State Act) by its very terms deals with the pace at which work is performed during a workday, not the total hours worked."

In seeking an injunction stopping implementation of Santa Monica's provisions, Columbia Sussex Management and CW Hotel Limited Partnership also cited the California Occupational Safety and Health Act.

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