UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers union, commends Yale University for its decision not to reinvest in private-equity hotelier, HEI Hospitality. Earlier this year, Brown University announced that it will not reinvest in HEI until the University is confident that HEI is respecting the rights of its workers, and the University of Pennsylvania stated publicly that it had no current plans to make future investments in HEI-sponsored funds.
Over the past three years, HEI has a growing record of exploitative labor practices at their hotels.
Most recently, a California State Labor Commission hearing officer found the HEI-managed Embassy Suites in Irvine guilty of denying rest breaks required under state law to eight workers and ordered the hotel pay them $41,000. HEI has now settled or been held liable on 32 wage and hour administrative complaints for a total of $99,999 at the Embassy Suites Irvine.
In March 2011, eight jurors ruled unanimously that former HEI Senior Vice President Larry Trainor was retaliated against by HEI for filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. In April 2011, the judge overseeing the case doubled initial damages awarded – to $4.5 million – noting the jury’s finding of knowing retaliation, which entitles the employee to multiple damages.
Since 2008, multiple National Labor Relations Board complaints were issued against HEI. In settlement agreements with the NLRB where HEI did not admit wrongdoing, HEI has promised not to threaten to fire workers, take away benefits, or make work more difficult for participating in union activity. HEI even promised not to confiscate food that workers received from the union.