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Posts from October 2012.

The U.S. Green Building Council is currently accepting public comments until December 10, 2012, on its draft of LEED v4 that will aim to establish LEED certification for the hospitality industry. This post discusses a few of the categories that will be considered for applicants seeking to obtain LEED certification for hotels.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary, consensus-based, market­-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. For commercial buildings and neighborhoods, to earn LEED certification requires that a project must satisfy all LEED prerequisites and earn a minimum 40 points on a 110-point LEED rating system scale. The main credit categories are sustainable sites, water efficiency credits, energy and atmosphere credits, materials and resource credits, and indoor environmental quality credits.

Here is a brief overview of some of the credits that are proposed for the hospitality industry, as well data centers, retail, and healthcare uses. Although LEED v4 does apply to renovation projects, the categories summarized here do not directly address renovation work.

Travel industry and technology experts gathered at the Four Seasons Seattle this past Wednesday to participate in the region’s first conference devoted exclusively to the intersection of hospitality, travel and tourism with technology. The TNT Travel & Technology Conference was hosted by the Hospitality, Travel & Tourism practice group at Garvey Schubert Barer and local angel investment/opportunity facilitator and industry connector Zino Society. I conducted an informal interview of participants and attendees, which I selected randomly via a complex, proprietary algorithm (red wine vs. white wine; preference for mushroom quiches over Vietnamese spring rolls, cocktail napkin or no cocktail napkin) and 100% of respondents indicated the event was an unqualified success.

Garvey owner and chair of the firm’s E-Commerce and Technology practice, Scott Warner, and Hospitality, Travel & Tourism Practice chair, Greg Duff, each hosted a panel of experts—Scott, a group of expert technologists and Greg, a group of expert users. The former consisted of representatives from Expedia, Microsoft, Intelity, Sabre Hospitality, Google, Concur Technologies, Urbanspoon, Tnooz and Ascension Software and the latter of panelists from Evergreen Finance Consulting, Virtuoso, Alaska Airlines, Benchmark Hospitality, American Casino & Entertainment Properties, Mandarin Oriental and Holland America Line. See the linked Conference Program for a more detailed description of the panels and each of the panelists.

Accessing Social Media Accounts

California has now joined Illinois and Maryland in banning employers from requesting social media passwords from current or potential employees or from requiring that employees log in while in the employer’s presence. Other states with pending legislation on this subject include Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.

Because this trend is sweeping the nation, employers in any state should be careful and not request that employees divulge their social media passwords or otherwise pressure employees into granting access to social media accounts. This is good advice not only because of the legislative action, but for common sense reasons. Accessing an employee’s private social media account can lead to, among other things, the discovery of the employee’s membership in a protected class or the employee’s protected concerted activity, the employer’s knowledge of which could cause problems if the employee is later disciplined. In other words, ignorance is bliss. This is especially important to remember as the election draws near and employee use of social media to express political beliefs becomes more and more frequent.

Do you feature ATMs in your hotel, restaurant or conference center? If yes, you may be an unwitting target for ATM fee notice lawsuits. Here’s why: 

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) contains a provision requiring owners of ATMs to provide adequate notice to consumers about fees charged for using ATMs not owned by the consumers’ own bank. The EFTA states that you must notify these consumers twice regarding such fees:

  1. You must post an external notice on the body of the ATM “in a prominent and conspicuous location” stating what the exact fee imposed will be for performing a transaction on the ATM, and
  2. There must be a second notice on the screen, or by paper issued from the machine, which advises the user that they can avoid paying the fee and terminate the transaction before the consumer is irrevocably committed to completing the transaction.

Don’t have both notices? Then your ATM is not in compliance with the EFTA and if you own or operate the machine, you could face penalties for damages incurred by the ATM customer plus a statutory penalty of up to $1000. Worse, if a case is brought against you as a class action, you could be liable for up to $500,000 or 1% of your net worth—whichever is smaller—plus costs and reasonable attorney fees. That adds up to a significant potential recovery, which is why there are lawsuits being filed across the country as we type.

In case there was any doubt the political season is well upon us, an increasing number of companies have been letting their employees know that if the owners had their way, everyone would vote for the candidates backed by the owner. Westgate Resorts, ASG Software Solutions and the Koch brothers of Georgia Pacific have all let their employees know that they are supporting the Republican slate, both nationally and locally. While this may be a savvy campaign strategy started by Mitt Romney in a virtual town hall meeting with the National Federation of Independent Businesses last June, the tone of the letters are seen as threatening by some. The letters have been carefully crafted to walk the thin line between a threat about the future of the company and a reflection of what the authors perceive the economic impact on business will be if the Democrats prevail. All of these letters have people wondering just how much political talk can be controlled by an employer, and just what can be said in the workplace.

The federal laws do not include political views or political affiliation in the laundry list of protected classes, but many states have taken such steps. The real risk of such public endorsement (and perceived veiled threats) in the workplace is the inherent tension and negative atmosphere that results. It is tougher to keep your employees from discussing politics (and the resulting heated discussions), if the Company president has already made a very public statement regarding his/her political views. The statements that imply the Company will close, reduce the workforce, or otherwise be impacted if the desired political party is not elected can create a lot of fear for the employees. If your employees are concerned about their jobs, you may lose some top talent. They aren’t going to want to stick around a Company that may or may not be in existence in a year. The bigger impact, though, can be on employee morale. 

Our friends at Meeting Professionals International would like to invite you to their October educational program. Please see below for all of the details!

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About the Editor

Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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