California law doesn’t entitle an employee to take a vacation. Los Angeles’ Citywide Hotel Worker Minimum Wage Ordinance changes that – big time. The Ordinance will require certain hotels, including any contracted, leased, or sublet premises connected to or operated in conjunction with the hotel, to provide up to 12 days off per year – enough time to drive from L.A. to New York City and back three times. The Ordinance covers two types of hotels: (1) Airport Hospitality Enhancement Zone (AHEZ) hotels that have at least 50 guest rooms or suites1 and (2) all other hotels that have at least 150 guest rooms or suites.2
Why Mandatory Paid Time Off for L.A. Hotel Workers Is a “Suite” Deal
Hotels subject to the Ordinance must provide at least 96 hours (12 days) of paid time off (PTO) per year for sick leave, vacation, or personal necessity to a hotel worker. The hours will accrue each week in each calendar year that a hotel worker works for the hotel.3 In other words, a full-time hotel worker (i.e., one who works at least 40 hours per week or according to the hotel’s policies if they’re “more generous”) will accrue PTO at a rate of 1.85 hours per week over the course of a year (i.e., 96 hours per year ÷ 52 weeks = 1.85 hours per week). Those who work less than 40 hours a week will receive the PTO in proportional increments.4
The Ordinance permits an employer to require a probationary period of up to six months before a hotel worker can begin accruing PTO. Thus, a hotel worker becomes eligible to use accrued PTO after the first six months of employment or consistent with company policies, whichever is sooner.5 Similarly, a hotel may cap the accrual and carry-over of PTO at 192 hours per year. But the Ordinance is ambiguous about what happens if the hotel has no cap. The Ordinance states that unused accrued PTO “will carry over until [it] reaches…192 hours,” unless the hotel’s “established policy” is “more generous,” i.e., higher.6
Here’s where the Ordinance really departs from existing law. After a hotel worker banks 192 hours, the hotel must cash him out once every 30 days for accrued PTO over the maximum. For example, a full-time hotel worker who has accrues 216 hours of PTO off by the end of the third month of his third year will be entitled to a cash-out of the extra 24 hours. The hotel must cash him out at his current rate of pay, so if that rate is $15.37 per hour, his cash-out will be $368.88. The hotel will have to repeat that process once every 30 days if the hotel worker continues to have more than 96 hours of PTO in the bank.7
Using PTO is a different story. If a hotel worker wishes to use his PTO, the hotel can’t unreasonably deny his request to use it.8 In other words, the hotel might be able to deny a bellhop’s request to take PTO if the hotel is so short on staff and/or the bellhop’s time off will be so long that PTO would somehow unreasonably disrupt the hotel’s operations or unreasonably burden other workers – very unlikely scenarios. The hotel can’t circumvent its duty to grant a hotel worker’s reasonable request to use PTO by counting such time off as an absence that can result in discipline, discharge, suspension, or any other adverse action.9
Which Hotels Are Subject to the Ordinance?
AHEZ hotels are located within the same boundaries as the “Gateway to L.A. Property Business Improvement District” – also known as the “GTLA PBID,” “Century Corridor PBID,” or just plain old “LAX.” Like the name suggests, the Century Corridor PBID area mainly covers the north side of Century Blvd. between Sepulveda Blvd and La Cienega Blvd. and the south side of Century Blvd. between La Cienega Blvd. and Aviation Blvd. But the City of L.A. gerrymandered the Century Corridor PBID boundaries to sweep up properties on La Cienega Blvd., 98th Street, 102nd Street, Aviation Blvd., Sepulveda Blvd., and Airport Blvd.
Non-AHEZ hotels are all other hotels that are within L.A. city limits and have at least 150 guest rooms or suites. The operative word is “guest.” The Ordinance doesn’t apply if the hotel has 149 guest rooms and one non-guest room (e.g., banquet hall, office, phone booth, etc.). The Ordinance, then, covers virtually all major L.A. hotels – and some not-so-major ones. For example, Skid Row’s infamous Cecil Hotel (now known as the Stay on Main) has a whopping 600 guest rooms. Those who work for Skid Row hotels or third-party businesses subject to the Ordinance will probably be elated to know that they now have the right to PTO.