For immediate release
August 15, 2005
Lars Negstad 312-663-4373 ext. 243 or cell 312-446-1766
Cheryle Jackson 312/814.3158 (office)
Abby Ottenhoff 312/814.3158 (office)
Rebecca Rausch 217/782.7355 (office)
New law requires Cook County hotels to provide hotel room attendants with breaks, meal periods and free drinking water
CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed increased protections for hotel room attendants to take rest breaks during their workday. House Bill 3485 requires that hotel room attendants in Cook County receive two 15-minute paid rest breaks and one 30-minute meal period so they can eat, drink water, or use the restroom.
“Hotel room attendants work very hard to clean rooms, often without even taking a break. These workers need to be treated fairly and receive proper breaks to avoid injuries at work,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “That’s why I’m signing legislation that will protect these workers, who play an often silent but crucial role in our expanding tourism industry.”
In many hotels, room attendants have to clean 14-16 rooms a day and hotels have not reduced the number of room assignments to compensate for increased workloads. Many hotel room attendants are Latino and African-American women who face increasing injuries due to these heavy workloads. Room attendants who demand safer working conditions often face retaliation from management in the form of increased room inspections or more difficult assignments.
HB 3485 requires employers to provide a comfortable room or environment for hotel room attendants to rest and to have clean drinking water available at no charge. It also requires hotels to keep a record of the breaks it provides to room attendants and prohibits an employer from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law.
Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) and Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) sponsored HB 3485, with support from the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union (UNITE/HERE), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Illinois AFL-CIO and many other unions.
“Chicago’s tourism industry depends as much on the hardworking efforts of hotel attendants as it does on parks and attractions,” said the bill’s chief sponsor Rep. John Fritchey. “In providing such basic necessities as a break time and clean drinking water, this law is more about human decency than it is about labor issues.”
“These hard working hotel room attendants deserve a break as they fulfill their commitment to their employers. With this legislation, the General Assembly and Governor Blagojevich have worked together to take an important step towards protecting the health and safety of hotel room attendants across Illinois,” said Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago).
“Room attendants work hard to make Chicago visitors comfortable. Most also work hard to raise families. With a chance to take a short rest each day, they will be able to do both things even better,” said Henry Tamarin, President, UNITE HERE Local 1.
“I take pride in my work, and in my son. Every Chicago visitor deserves a nice clean room. We fought for this law so that we could be treated like humans, not machines,” said Francine Jones, a room attendant at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago.
HB 3485 amends the One Day Rest in Seven Act to require that breaks be given to hotel room attendants for each day they work for at least 7 hours. The new law also establishes a rebuttable presumption that an employee was retaliated against if later fired or demoted. An employee who suffers from retaliation is entitled to triple his or her normal daily compensation, plus damages and attorney’s fees if incurred.
Employers who violate the law must pay hotel room attendants three times their hourly pay for each day that breaks were not provided and may be subject to damages, back pay, reinstatement or injunctive relief for discharging workers in violation of the law.
HB 3485 becomes effective immediately.