Hospitality Staffing Solutions recently settled with dozens of its hired workers after shortchanging them on pay. Wage and hour attorneys highlight that this is not the first time the company has been sued by its workers, who have been consistently underpaid and overworked at locations throughout the country.
The company provides low-level employees to hotel companies in most major cities in the U.S. In Indianapolis, workers were employed in chains such as Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, Omni, and Westin. Employees involved in the suit were paid minimum wage, underpaid in hours, and often worked through unpaid breaks to avoid punishment. One woman, a housekeeper at the local Marriott, claims that it became necessary for her to come into work two hours before her shift started each day to meet her required number of rooms. The lawsuit contends that at least 20 to 25 other housekeepers found themselves in similar positions, none of whom were paid overtime premiums.
Hotel chains hire from companies like Hospitality Staffing Solutions because it allows them to hire full-time workers as temps. These employees are not given any health coverage, pay raises, or worker benefits. Of course, this concept is attractive to hotel managers trying to improve their profit margin while keeping the same level of maintenance quality. Similar outsourcing methods are becoming widespread in many American blue-collar industries, threatening the livelihoods of its workers.
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The hotel workers union Unite Here organized workers throughout Indianapolis to be involved in the lawsuit, which settled in December. Unite Here issued a statement on the settlement, details of which are not yet available to the public, calling the case a ‘landmark’ in wage and hour litigation in Indianapolis.
One plaintiff even lost her job when she spoke out at an Indianapolis City Council hearing about the injustice she and her colleagues were subjected to. Unite Here is attempting to expose the two-tiered work environments companies like Hospitality Staffing Solution is creating in the city’s hotels. Employees hired directly by Marriott or Westin enjoy full benefits, higher wages, and healthcare coverage, while employees of the outsourcing company, who literally work alongside the hotel employees, do not. The union also affirms that employees previously hired by the outsourcing company have extreme difficulty ever being hired directly by hotels in the area.
In July of 2012, Indianapolis City Council passed an ordinance that attempted to forbid agreements between hotels and staffing agencies. Such agreements prevent hotels from hiring recent staffing agency employees. The city’s mayor, Greg Ballard, vetoed the ordinance. He claimed that the legislation interfered with the right of private entities to freely contract with each other.
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A lawsuit filed in January 2012 against Hospitality Staffing Solutions accused the company of entering into such agreements, however the case is still being litigated. Another Indianapolis staffing company, LGC Associates, fines hotels if they try to ‘poach’ one of the company’s employees after they were assigned that hotel. This would have been made illegal if they ordinance had passed.
An organizer for Unite Here and former hotel employee says that now, after the settlement, his former coworkers can more easily land direct employment jobs in the area. Some are now enjoying, for the first time, vacation days, holiday pay, raises, and sick days.
Wage and hour attorneys champion the success of the Indianapolis hotel workers involved in this case. Their efforts will help ensure that blue-collar workers throughout the nation, even those hired through staffing agencies, will receive fair and equal pay.