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Long Beach Hotel Workers Ordinance Gets Hearing Next Month

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By Jorge Casuso

September 17, 2019 -- A challenge to the Long Beach law that served as a model for Santa Monica's hotel workers ordinance is headed to Los Angeles County Superior Court next month.

Judge Mark C. Kim has scheduled a hearing October 22 in a lawsuit filed by the California Hotel & Lodging Association that seeks to invalidate the Long Beach law approved by local voters last Noveber.

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

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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.

"The courts have held that when the Legislature has expressly stated its intent to occupy a field of regulation, cities are prohibited from enacting local legislation in the same field," the plaintiff's attorneys wrote.

"Consequently, any local ordinance addressing the workplace safety and health of housekeepers in the hospitality industry is an unlawful intrusion into a subject area that is the exclusive province of the state."

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."

Like the Long Beach law, the ordinance unanimously approved by the Santa Monica City Council August 27 establishes daily workload maximums based on square footage cleaned.

The Santa Monica ordinance sets a maximum of 4,000 square feet for hotels with fewer 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.

Measure WW -- which was approved November 6 by nearly two-thirds of Long Beach voters -- sets a 4,000 square foot maximum for all hotels and includes the same overtime requirement.

According to the Long Beach lawsuit, UNITE HERE Local 11 "proposed similar work rate and work pacing to California's Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board, but the Standards Board adopted different regulations.

"When that failed, (the union) proposed that the Long Beach City Council draft an ordinance with similar provisions to Measure WW; that also failed."

The union then backed Measure WW on the November 6 ballot, according to the lawsuit.

As with Santa Monica's ordinance, the measure's key provision requires hotels to provide housekeepers with “panic buttons” to help prevent sexual assaults.

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