For immediate release
April 12, 2011
Indiana OSHA cites Hyatt and hotel subcontractor HSS for health and safety violations
Fines from OSHA citations total more than $50,000
Indianapolis, IN – Following months of investigation, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) has issued the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis and its subcontractor Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS) safety orders with proposed fines totaling more than $50,000 between both companies. The safety orders are the result of investigations following injury complaints lodged by Hyatt housekeepers in November 2010.
Two "serious" safety orders issued to Hyatt include allegedly failing to train HSS subcontracted workers on chemical hazards and on bloodborne pathogens such as blood, needles and other potentially infectious materials that housekeepers had potential exposure to as part of their regular duties. According to OSHA, "a serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known." IOSHA also cited the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis alleging that it failed to record illnesses and injuries on OSHA forms of HSS subcontracted workers who suffered recordable injuries while working at the Hyatt. Proposed penalties for safety orders issued to Hyatt total $4,400.
IOSHA issued a "knowing" safety order, the highest level safety order that Indiana OSHA issues with a more severe proposed penalty of $40,000 to HSS alleging that it failed to turn over injury records and delayed in providing other injury files despite repeated requests. IOSHA has described ‘knowing’ safety orders in the past as the most serious safety violations possible by an employer. Serious citations were issued to HSS alleging that it failed to train its employees on chemical and bloodborne pathogen hazards and other recordkeeping irregularities. Additional proposed fines bring the total for HSS to $49,900. The orders and proposed fines become final unless Hyatt and HSS seek administrative review within 15 working days to challenge them.
"By relying on subcontractors like HSS to staff housekeeping, Hyatt has been able to circumvent its responsibility to provide basic workplace protections for housekeepers that all workers are entitled to under the law," says Marquita Walker, a Labor Studies professor at IUPUI. "In Indianapolis, the multi-billion-dollar Hyatt Corporation is leading the industry in an outsourcing trend that takes advantage of primarily immigrant workers and erodes the quality of jobs for hospitality workers in the region."
Approximately 50% of Hyatt’s room attendants in housekeeping are supplied by HSS. Though designated as temporary staffing, many HSS workers are long-term employees, having worked at Hyatt for years, earning as little as $7.25 an hour. At the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, room attendants are required to clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is commonly required in unionized hotels. Speeding up work by raising the room quota or adding room amenities can strain the body and lead to more injuries, like slipping on wet bathroom floors or tripping over furniture. The long-term impact of housekeeping work can result in debilitating injuries that in some instances require surgery, physical therapy, or lead to permanent disability.
A major peer-reviewed study of hotel worker injuries at 50 U.S. hotels operated by the top five hotel companies was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in February 2010. By company, housekeepers working at Hyatt hotels had the highest injury rate of those hotels studied.
Hyatt’s relationship with HSS stirred controversy in August 2009, when Hyatt fired approximately 100 room cleaners in its three Boston area hotels, replacing longtime employees with subcontracted HSS workers who were paid the minimum wage. The subcontracted employees now clean as many as 30 rooms a day.
CACOSH, the Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health assisted the housekeepers who were the complainants that triggered these inspections.
Currently, there are no unionized hotels in Indianapolis and hotel workers in Indianapolis are organizing as part of Hotel Workers Rising, a national campaign coordinated by the hotel workers union, UNITE HERE.