National Labor Relations Board rejects hotel’s appeal, finds hotel violated federal labor law
This week, the National Labor Relations Board—the federal agency that enforces labor law across the country—issued a decision ordering the Hotel Bel-Air to pay potentially tens of millions of dollars to cover over nine years of lost earnings and benefits for over a hundred of its former employees.
The case was initiated in response to a complaint alleging that the Hotel Bel-Air violated federal labor law when it refused to rehire over 150 former employees following a temporary closure for remodeling, in order to avoid recognizing and bargaining with UNITE HERE Local 11, the union that represented its employees for decades.
Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, stated: "We are gratified that the Hotel Bel-Air is finally being brought to justice for its outrageous discrimination against workers for simply exercising their right to unionize. But the fact that it has taken the NLRB a decade to issue a decision also highlights the urgent need for reform to our broken legal system for our nation’s workers. Justice delayed is justice denied, and a decade is far too long to wait for brazen discrimination depriving workers of their livelihoods to be remedied."
The NLRB’s decision upholds the decision of an administrative law judge issued in 2019 finding, based on "overwhelming evidence," that the hotel "intended to weed out" former employees from being rehired so that it "would not have to recognize or bargain with the Union." The judge called the hotel’s reasons for excluding former employees from consideration "bogus" and "preposterous," adding that the hotel engaged in "blatant discriminatory treatment" and "devalued its former employees’ skills and qualifications."
The underlying discrimination occurred nearly a decade ago. Before its reopening in October 2011, the hotel held a three-day job fair to interview applicants for positions, reserving the first day for its former employees. The NLRB concluded that the hotel "designed the July job fair with an objective of identifying and excluding former employee applicants and avoiding recognizing and bargaining with the Union." Former employees, the decision states, "were invited to interview on the first morning of the job fair precisely so that [the hotel] could distinguish them from other applicants."
Under the NLRB’s decision, the Hotel Bel-Air is required to reinstate the former employees, make them whole for loss of earnings and benefits, and to make delinquent payments to benefit funds. Given the nearly decade-long period it has taken the NLRB to reach a final decision, the decision’s financial obligations could stretch into the tens of millions of dollars.
The decision comes as the incoming Congress is set to consider reforms to U.S. labor law to discourage illegal conduct and address undue delays.
"I knew the property inside and out and worked hard so that it could be a five-star hotel," said Amanda Escobar, a former housekeeper at the Hotel Bel-Air. "After dedicating 23 years to the hotel, I expected to be treated with respect. Instead, they threw me out like garbage just to get rid of our union. Today, we are finally getting some justice. I hope the Sultan of Brunei finally decides to follow our laws."
The Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel have been subject of a long-running boycott supported by celebrities and politicians, including Elton John and George Clooney, for Brunei’s anti-gay laws enacted by the government of Brunei, which owns the hotels.
UNITE HERE Local 11 is the union of more than 32,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas & convention centers in So. California & Arizona.
View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210129005646/en/
Rachel Sulkes, (602) 327-4084