The Coronavirus Safety Protocol Agreement

On August 14, 2020, our Union reached an agreement with the Hotel Association of New York City, Inc. that extends the “Coronavirus Hotel Safety Protocol” through January 1, 2021 and continues until the earlier of either the end of the current, declared state of emergency or declared public health emergency, or an FDA approved vaccine becomes available at the health centers. This article is a summary of the significant pieces of the safety agreement.

To read the text of the August 2020 agreement, click here. To read the text of the June 2020 agreement, click here.

To see if your hotel has agreed to sign on to the new agreement, click here.

The agreement continues to address three critical aims:

I. To prevent workers and guests from contracting COVID-19 by requiring a series of additional safety measures;

II. To contain any outbreaks that may occur by establishing a testing protocol; and

III. To provide additional paid time off to workers who contract COVID-19, so that they do not have to worry about providing for their families while they recover.

I. Preventing Workers and Guests from Contracting COVID-19

Social Distancing and Sanitization of Public Spaces

The agreement continues the following protections to enhance employee and guest safety. Under the agreement, hotels are obligated to:

  • Require guests to wear face coverings when in public spaces;
  • Install barriers at any work stations where employees interact directly with guests (i.e. at the Front Desk);
  • Rearrange public spaces and employee work spaces to ensure social distancing of at least six feet;
  • Post notices on how to avoid contracting and preventing the further spread of COVID-19;
  • Remove unnecessary amenities that are porous or otherwise difficult to clean from public spaces (such as non-touchless water dispensers, magazines, brochure stands, and the like);
  • Disinfect all shared work equipment that is used by one employee per shift (such as housekeeping carts) after each shift;
  • Regularly disinfect all common equipment that is shared by multiple employees or guests per shift (such as bell carts);
  • Hotels that are currently open must continue to use Public Space Sanitization Teams, which were negotiated in the original March 2020 “Coronavirus Hotel Safety Protocol” until December 31, 2020. The Public Space Sanitization Teams will disinfect, at least hourly, all guest touch points, including elevators, doorknobs, handles, counters, desks, tables, chairs and sofas, electronics, and any other items available in public spaces using EPA registered antimicrobial products. Generally, the size of each Public Space Sanitization team is determined by the number of rooms in the hotel. You can find those guidelines, along with the rules for how the work must be offered to employees, in Exhibit B of the June 2020 agreement. Even after this provision expires, no employee can be laid off as a result and the Union will be able to challenge any staffing or workload that is inappropriate or unreasonable; and
  • For hotels that are currently closed and wish to reopen, the hotel will need to negotiate with the union over staffing and workloads.

Personal Protective Equipment

Hotel management must continue to provide the following personal protective equipment to employees covered by the agreement:

  • Appropriate face coverings;
  • Disposable gloves;
  • Hand sanitizer stations throughout the hotel (including in back of the house areas);
  • EPA approved antimicrobial soap; and
  • Physical barriers at any work station where employees interact directly with the guests.

Employee Safety and Training

The agreement continues to require hotels to conduct safety trainings for employees, as negotiated under the original March 2020 “Coronavirus Hotel Safety Protocol”:

  • All employees must be trained on how to identify symptoms of the coronavirus and what steps should be taken if they suspect that they have been exposed;
  • Room Attendants must be specifically trained on how to most effectively clean to eliminate the Coronavirus and on how to protect themselves from infection;
  • Front Desk Agents must be trained on how to respond to guest inquiries about whether and where to seek treatment for Coronavirus-related illness or exposure; and
  • The Hotel is required to create and emergency response plan to protect workers and guests in the event a guest seeks treatment for Coronavirus exposure.

Additional Protections for Housekeeping Staff:

The agreement continues the following protections for housekeeping staff:

  • Required daily room cleans of all stay-over and check-out rooms;
  • All cleaning products and disinfectants are to be approved by the EPA for use against the Coronavirus;
  • All bed linens and towels must be cleaned on a daily basis, without exception;
  • Through December 31, 2020, hotels that are currently open must reduce the room quota by 25% to accommodate the additional time needed to sanitize guest rooms. Once this provision expires, the Union will still be able to challenge staffing levels and workloads and no employee can be laid off due to the change.
  • Hotels that are currently closed and seek to reopen must negotiate with the Union over staffing and workloads before reopening;
  • Management cannot assign employees to work in a guest room while it is occupied;
  • Management cannot assign employees to enter an occupied guest room for at least fifteen minutes after the guest has left the room;
  • The hotel must provide HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners;
  • Vacuums are only to be used on rugs and carpets after that rug or carpet has been disinfected with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19;
  • The hotel must maintain vacuum cleaners regularly to minimize how much dust is being dispersed; and
  • The hotel must remove unnecessary amenities that are porous or otherwise difficult to clean from guest rooms, such as pens, pencils, decorative pillows, magazines, notepads, candy dishes.

II. Containing Outbreaks:

Employee Testing and Screening:

The agreement continues the testing protocol established in the June 2020 agreement to identify infections early and make the hotel take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the event an employee or guest gets sick. According to the testing protocol, hotels must do the following:

  • Conduct daily temperature checks for all employees;
  • Pay for COVID-19 testing and one day’s pay (at the benefit day rate) for employees who:
    • Have a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit;
    • Are required to get the test by the hotel (for instance, if the hotel requires employees to get tested before recalling employees to work); or
    • Have a reasonable belief that they have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past fourteen days at home or on the job.
  • If an employee was exposed on the job or has a fever above 100.4, the hotel must provide up to 3 additional days of paid time off (at the benefit day rate) while the employee waits for test results; and
  • If an employee has a reasonable belief that they were exposed at home, the hotel must provide up to 1 additional day of paid time off (at the benefit day rate) while the employee waits for test results.

This paid time off is in addition to any other paid time off that an employee otherwise has, including sick, vacation, personal days and accelerated holidays under the contract and safety agreement and any paid time off under the law (such as paid time off to quarantine).

III. Providing Additional Paid Time Off:

Paid Time Off for those who Test Positive for COVID-19:

Any employee who is recalled to work or working is eligible for up to 20 days of paid time off (at their benefit day rate) if they are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.

Additional Options to take Paid Time Off:

In the March 2020 “Coronavirus Safety Protocol”, the Union negotiated enhanced rights for employees to use paid and unpaid time off to stay home. These rights are further extended as follows:

  • Employees are permitted to use any of their accrued and unused paid sick, vacation, and personal days if they fear exposure to COVID-19 as a result of having to work, commuting to work, or being unable to work because of childcare obligations or obligations to take care of an elderly family member;
  • Employees are permitted to use all of the paid holidays remaining in 2020; and
  • Employees are permitted to take unlimited unpaid-time off for the same reasons.