Bill Strives to End the Inhumane Practices of California Hotels

Californian Senator Kevin de Leon introduced a new bill regarding safety and health standards for California hotels, motels, and lodges that is pending approval.  All that should be said is how truly shameful it is that legislation is needed over something that should be a “no-brainer.”

Apparently hotels using flat bed sheets, not the elastic ones most of us use at home, and not providing the custodial staff with long-handled equipment has caused many workers to suffer chronic and severe injuries.  Therefore, the bill requires hotels, motels, and the like to use elastic fitted bed sheets and provide workers with long-handled tools to ensure that cleaning the hotel rooms and bathrooms do not result in substantial injury to the workers.

A sixty-nine year old worker, Nenita Ibe, an employee of the Hyatt Hotel in Santa Clara, California has suffered chronic back pains, shoulder injuries, swollen knees, and sleep deprivation from daily lifting 25 mattresses weighing over 150 lbs. and getting on her knees to sweep and mop.  Ibe drove to Sacramento last week to testify in favor of this bill, and provided lawmakers with a demonstration of her painful daily routine.

Unfortunately Ms. Ibe is one of many who have had such horrible work experiences.  Further, the Hyatt is not the only hotel chain that implements such unsafe practices for its workers.  Despite this truth, objections have been raised to lawmakers spending precious time over a bill regarding bed sheets and bathroom mops.

As a suggested “quick-fix,” hotels should choose strong, well-built workers for employment requiring strenuous labor.  There have even been some comments indicating that men, not small immigrant women, should be hired.  This is obviously a ridiculous assertion since it is illegal to discriminate based on an employee’s gender or race.  Such a “quick-fix” will not likely be implemented.

Reading of such slave-like practices is shocking.  After all, we are in 2011, not the 1600-1700’s where slavery practices were common.  How could workers not be provided mops to sweep bathroom floors?  In an age of high-tech appliances to do minor work, hotels are expecting their workers to clean bathrooms by getting down on their knees and scrubbing, rather than using helpful equipment?  On top of this, how are hotels expecting a single worker to lift heavy mattresses in order to change the sheets?  There is an obvious risk of severe injury, which would then potentially expose the hotel to legal liability.

Such ridiculous expectations on the part of hotels put the workers’ safety and health in danger; businesses such as hotels should know that such conduct is not supported by the law.  If a business employs workers to carry out certain tasks, then a business has a duty to ensure that those workers are safe from any workplace injury.  The California Hotel & Lodging Association has made statements that changing the bed sheets would cost the hotel industry $15 million statewide.

Although an exact number has not been revealed regarding costs of providing hotel workers with mops or other long-handled tools, it can be assumed that the figure will not be small.  Even if such an expense pinches the pocket of many hotels now, it will save them from the cost of any future litigation and mandatory settlement payments that may result per such hazardous practices employment practices.

The California Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Regulations has voted favorably for the bill.  The bill next goes to the Senate Appropriates Committee.

On the one hand, it is sad that time is being spent on deciding a bill promoting humane practices to protect the health and safety of workers.  On the other hand, since such safe practices were not innately implemented, time needs to be spent to get the bill passed, so that the health and safety of workers can be protected.

Hopefully California gets its act together and quickly passes this bill.  It will save hotels from any potential litigation, let workers go to work knowing that their health and safety is not at risk, and allow hotel owners to sleep at night with a clear conscience.

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