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In recent years several cities, including Los Angeles and West Hollywood have passed hotel worker protection ordinances, which put both safety and workload protections in place.

Laguna Beach voters this November will also decide on Measure S which would implement protections for hotel workers as well as make minimum wage for hotel workers in the city $18 an hour.

The city of Irvine may be joining this trend. On October 25th, the Irvine City Council voted by a close margin to pass a hotel worker protection ordinance. The ordinance still must pass a second reading vote, in order to become effective. To date, the second reading has not been scheduled.

In a 3-2 vote the members of the Irvine City Council became the first city in Orange County to approve an ordinance that aims to improve workplace protection for hospitality workers in Irvine.

During a City Council special meeting, a report by Irvine Weekly said that local hospitality workers, many of them speaking through a translator during public comment, shared personal experiences that detailed occurrences of repeated propositions for sex and frequent unwanted physical advances from hotel guests toward hospitality staff. Many public speakers said they experience this type of inhumane treatment on a regular basis.

Now, the Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance will make it the responsibility of hotel management to equip and maintain wearable security devices for staff to utilize in the event someone is harassed, assaulted or in an emergency. Based on the size of a hotel, the Ordinance would also establish maximum room cleaning quotas for hotel staff.

While the ordinance was heavily supported by hospitality industry employees, several hotel managers spoke against the ordinance.

Donald Driscoll, General Manager of The DoubleTree by Hilton Irvine Spectrum, wrote a letter addressed to Irvine City Clerk, Carl Pertersen. In his letter, Mr. Driscoll asked the council to withdraw from a vote, citing that a vote without any hospitality industry ownership involvement is “inappropriate and undemocratic.”

“Our hotel has gone over three hundred days without a lost-time workplace accident, and we pride ourselves on monitoring and maintaining a safe environment for both team members and our guests,” he wrote. “We also provide weekly and daily safety reminders and share these with all team members to keep safety and safe work practices front of mind for all.”

Lynn S. Mohrfeld, President and CEO of the California Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA) , wrote a letter echoing Mr. Driscoll’s statements. Both letters were submitted into the e-comments prior to the meeting.

Mohrfeld said she was concerned that the new ordinance would impact scheduling, if rooms are made unavailable due to new cleaning mandates.

“CHLA and our Irvine hotel community are extremely concerned that the proposed ordinance you’re considering is not motivated by worker safety concerns. We are also extremely concerned that this ordinance would harm the hospitality industry and our employees who are still recovering from nearly two years of pandemic-related closures that set us and the city back months,” Mohrfeld stated.