Top Ten: Legal Tips for Hospitality HR


In this litigious society, the hospitality industry—perhaps more than any other segment—has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, both frivolous and legitimate.

Hospitality HRNewsFor small business owners and HR professionals, changes in the legal landscape mean that you need constant vigilance to protect your company and stay out of court.

Although nothing can replace formal legal advice from a qualified attorney, here are some suggestions for hospitality HR, so your company can keep on the right side of the law:  

  • Background checks are required, and are fast becoming the norm for hospitality companies—especially when using cloud-based services like Intelius, PeopleSmart and Ovation make checks suitable for every new hire. However, one size does not necessarily fit all employers. Make sure the screening system is appropriate for the rules and laws for your jurisdiction.
  • Clarify that every new hire is not bound by any restrictions such as non-compete clauses.  Employers should not hire anyone for the trade secrets of a previous employer.
  • Independent contractors are slightly different rules than regular employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Take discrimination, for example. Courts can be a little more expansive when it comes to contractors bringing claims of discrimination by age, race, sex, creed and color. Make sure official protocols are in place when hiring independent contractors.
  • Have social media policies that are strong and applied consistently. Make sure they have:

1.       No expectations of privacy.
2.       Anti-harassment provisions.
3.       Non-disclosure rules.
4.       Clear indications of what constitutes business property.

  • Off-duty conduct policies can sticky, particularly with regard to privacy concerns. Several states regulate employee conduct off the job. Ensure employee policies are suitable for your area.
  • Be wary of policies regarding employee time off. An increasing number of court cases fall under the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act. Courts are more sensitive to work leave claims.
  • Recent expansions of the American with Disabilities Act can be a minefield for employers. Take care to note the increasingly broad definitions of disability. Design a strategy to provide reasonable accommodations for the disabled—either customers or employees.
  • Firing an employee on extended leave-of-absence can leave an employer liable under the ADA. Document everything carefully and in complete detail.
  • Gratuities and tips go to servers and should be clearly understood as such. Service charges fall under a different category, but often courts will make it difficult for the company to retain money from those charges.  Make sure to clearly labeled service charges for the house as such—i.e. “administrative fees.”
  • The definition of “hostile work environment” has changed over the past few years, and the criteria for individual liability have lowered considerably. Some states have rules that are more extensive than federal laws.  Have a robust review process for any claim of harassment; courts look more favorably on employers that take such claims seriously.

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