Two housekeepers at Hyatt Regency have filed a class-action lawsuit against Long Beach’s largest hotel, alleging management has failed to operate within the city’s voter-approved hotel working conditions ordinance.

Room attendants Michelle Bain and Carmen Luna allege the Downtown hotel failed to pay housekeepers for work that exceeded limits outlined in the city policy and that managers pressured staff to work through breaks. Additionally, the suit alleges the hotel failed to post notices in guest rooms as required by the ordinance.

“Housekeeping is extremely hard work,” Bain, who has worked at the hotel for nearly two decades, said in a statement. “My coworkers and I fought to pass this initiative in Long Beach because we deserve fair pay for our workloads, and we are proud that we are finally standing up for the rights that we won.”

Hyatt Regency General Manager Lisa Aries and Hyatt corporate communications did not respond to requests for comment.

There are between 60 and 90 current and former employees in the proposed class, according to Lauren Teukolsky, who is representing the plaintiffs along with Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.

The suit seeks injunctive relief to force the hotel to comply with the municipal code in its entirety as well as recover unpaid wages and penalties.

The hotel working conditions ordinance was first proposed by Long Beach City Councilmember Lena Gonzalez in 2017. The proposal would have required hotels to provide panic buttons to housekeepers, provide employees notice of any sex offenders staying at the hotel, put notices or hotel workers’ rights in rooms and restrict workloads unless workers volunteer for overtime.

Hotels where workers were unionized “with equivalent protections” would have been exempt from the ordinance, according to the 2017 agenda item.

The proposal was defeated in September of that year.

Nearly one year later, in August 2018, the council voted unanimously to place Measure WW on the November ballot, which would codify the previously defeated rules for hotels with 50 or more rooms. The measure was approved with 64.5% of the vote.

In September 2018, the City Council voted 5-0 on an ordinance that requires hotels with 50 or more rooms to provide panic buttons to housekeepers.

The hotel’s “violations were knowing and intentional,” the suit reads, “and constitute unfair business practices which have deprived their employees of their rights under California and local labor laws and regulations in order to reduce their payroll costs and increase profits.”

A number of other cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle and Oakland, have passed similar ordinances, but this is the first lawsuit filed against a hotel for violations, according to Teukolsky.

Under the city’s municipal code, hotels must:

  • Provide panic buttons to all employees who work in guest rooms;
  • Post signs on the back of each guest room door that cite the municipal code protections;
  • Reassign any employee that reasonably believes their safety is at risk;
  • Provide paid time to contact police and consult with counsel in the event of an incident;
  • Cooperate with investigations;
  • Not require a room cleaner to clean more than 4,000 square feet of floor space in one eight-hour work day unless the employee is paid double for all hours worked. Floorspace is reduced if the number of hours worked is less than eight;
  • Not force staff to work more than 10 hours in a day unless the employee consents to the overtime;
  • Maintain at least two years of records for each room cleaner;
  • Not retaliate in any way against staff seeking enforcement of the ordinance.

The suit was filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Feb. 1. No court dates have been set, Teukolsky told the Business Journal in an email Friday. She added that she expects a joint status conference in three or four months.

“Hyatt has been flouting the law since the day it was passed,” Teukolsky said in a statement. “Hotels are on notice that they can’t cheat workers out of their wages with impunity.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.