Chamber’s hotel council commits to employee safety

0
109

Contributing Writer

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s Hotel Council announced a commitment to the city’s hotel employees’ safety at its meeting on April 5. The pledge addresses physical safety, discrimination, harassment and greater community issues.

The chamber’s Hotel Council was established in 2010 to address issues in the hotel industry within West Hollywood. Though West Hollywood is less than two square miles in size, the city is a huge tourist destination with more than 20 hotels, ranging from budget lodging options to luxury properties.

According to the Hotel Council, it had been working on a “five-star promise” regarding employee and guest safety even before the pandemic, and as a result, this pledge is separate from any COVID-19 safety regulations or protocols.

“This comprehensive and unprecedented commitment from West Hollywood’s hotel community represents our longstanding tradition to ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees while also protecting jobs and the competitiveness of our hotels,” said Nick Rimedio, general manager of Kimpton’s La Peer Hotel and the chair of the West Hollywood Chamber, via a statement.

The first promise is a commitment to hospitality and “people culture” by protecting diversity through training and certification, and providing training materials on safety and security as it relates to earthquakes, fires, medical issues, active shooters and other emergencies. It also includes retaining expert guidance to help the city update its diversity and safety programs each year.

The second promise is to ensure that anti-sexual harassment policies are available in multiple languages. The third is to provide training and education to employees so that they can identify and report any sexual harassment that occurs.

The fourth promise is to provide hotel staff with safety devices in the event of an emergency, such as panic buttons.

The final promise is to increase partnerships with national organizations that work to stop sexual violence, assault and human trafficking, while also working with the city of West Hollywood on community health issues, including c.

The pledge comes as West Hollywood’s once-vibrant tourism industry picks back up following a year of closures due to the pandemic. Some establishments have closed permanently, including several bars, restaurants and the Standard Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, which announced its permanent closure in January, citing financial issues caused by the pandemic and increased lease costs.

For context, in 2017-18, the city saw 3.59 million visitors who spent $1.73 billion, according to a study by Destination Analysts. In June 2020, West Hollywood Travel and Tourism Board CEO Tom Kiely told WeHoVille that visitor volume had dropped by 95%.

And while not technically in West Hollywood, the Chateau Marmont, which sits just over the city border in Hollywood, has been the subject of recent controversy. After the hotel laid off more than 200 employees at the onset of the pandemic, many of those employees have called for a boycott, saying they were let go without warning or severance benefits. Former employee Thommi Gross has also filed a lawsuit against the hotel, claiming she was subjected to racism and sexual harassment during the two years she worked as a banquet server.

Hospitality workers union UNITE HERE Local 11 recently sent a letter to the presidents of awards organizations, asking them not to patronize the Chateau Marmont — once well-known for its star-studded parties — this year.

“As someone who served guests during events, most commonly award show after-parties, it would mean the world to me for these same shows to stand with us in our fight for dignity and respect,” Keisha Banks, a former events server, said in a statement.

If the five-star promise works as intended, it would ideally protect West Hollywood hospitality employees from the kind of discrimination Chateau Marmont ex-employees have described. According to the chamber, more information regarding the pledge and the actions hotels have taken will soon appear on the chamber’s website.

Juliet Bennett Rylah is a freelance reporter who covers Hollywood and West Hollywood. She can be reached at jbrylah@gmail.com.