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Posts from June 2012.

Alcohol has been making the headlines over the past several weeks in Washington as the state prepares for Initiative 1183 to take effect.  And while the privatization of liquor sales remains a popular topic, another alcohol-related headline deserves some notice from business owners. The Seattle Times recently described a questionable situation caught by KOMO News cameras: beer in the temporary offices of Kiewit, the construction firm responsible for some of the work being done on Highway 520.  Partially in response to the pending investigation by the Department of Labor and Industry, clients and other readers have been asking whether a business can have alcohol in the workplace without running afoul of liquor regulations.

As a general rule, a business may not serve liquor to its employees or the public without a permit or license.  Two options are, however, available to businesses wishing to serve alcohol on a limited basis.  A banquet permit covers a single event where liquor is being provided without charge to private invitees, and is practical for businesses that have very infrequent occasions to serve alcohol.  Banquet permits cost $10, and may be purchased online here.  For businesses that wish to serve alcohol on a more frequent basis, a Class 4 permit is appropriate.  Class 4 permits cost $500 for one year, and liquor must be served in specified hospitality or dining rooms for not more than 24 hours in a given week.  Kiewit, and other businesses, are likely violating these requirements even with a Class 4 permit if alcohol is freely available to employees without area or time restrictions.  Applications for Class 4 permits can be found here.

Businesses that do not comply with permit and license requirements can be subject to warnings, fines, and administrative violation notices.  If you have questions about your business and applicable alcohol regulations, please contact me.

By now, nearly every revenue manager, electronic distribution manager and sales and marketing manager is familiar with the significance of keywords and the need for brand owners to manage third parties’ use of keywords in search-based Internet marketing.  Every negotiation of an online distribution agreement (whether direct-to-consumer, wholesale or otherwise) should include careful consideration about reasonable restrictions or conditions a hotelier will place on a distributor’s use of keywords.

As technology continues to evolve and to disrupt many traditional travel sales, marketing and distribution channels (Tnooz alone seems to report on new search-based tools weekly), owners and operators must reconsider their historical (and by now standard) approaches to critical contract provisions that address how and to what extent a distributor may use the hoteliers’ trademarks, trade names, logos and other intellectual property, including use as keywords.  The recent and much publicized launch of Promoted Hotels by Google served as an important reminder of this fact.

Promoted Hotels is Google’s new search-based marketing tool that allows hoteliers, OTAs and anyone else interested in securing a preferred booking position over other channels to bid for the right to be the primary (and sometimes, sole) booking option in ads that appear at the top of the Google Hotel Finder search results.  As you might expect, nearly all of the searches that I ran for hotels in various locations across the U.S. featured ads and links placed by OTAs and not the featured properties themselves.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Additional details regarding Promoted Hotels and sample search results can be found in these three articles.

The GSB Hospitality Team invite you to come to FareStart Restaurant on Thursday, June 7, for Guest Chef Night, and enjoy a three-course gourmet meal served to you by members of Garvey Schubert Barer and Clothier & Head!  These two teams have joined forces to help end homelessness in our community by volunteering for this event, and you can be part of their efforts by making your reservation for dinner now!  Eva Restaurant chef, Amy McCray, will be the guest chef for the evening.

FareStart Restaurant is on 7th & Virginia in downtown Seattle.  For more information about this event, or to make a reservation, please call (206) 267-7601.

Look forward to seeing you on June 7!

Victoria Slade, a member of Garvey Schubert Barer's Labor and Employment Group, brings us an important update on her previous post regarding employers' social media policies.

Thank you Victoria.

If you are anything like me, you have been eagerly awaiting another update from the NLRB on its social media decisions. Well, wait no longer. On May 30, the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel issued a third report on recent social media cases. This complements the two previous reports from January 12, 2012, and August 18, 2011.  For more information on the first two reports, see my recent post.

The new report does not offer any groundbreaking new principles for employers seeking to implement or enforce social media policies. This is good news, as it means that you don’t need to rewrite your social media policy every time the NLRB issues a report. This report does elaborate on a few of the key principles, however, and it offers some new and interesting examples. It also includes as an example an entire social media policy that was found lawful.

A recent Field Assistance Bulletin issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on February 29, 2012, announced a substantial change of the DOL’s enforcement position regarding mandatory tip pooling with back-of-the-house employees. 

As we have discussed in this blog previously tip pooling is the practice by which the tips of regularly tipped employees are pooled together and then redistributed among employees, including, on occasion, employees who do not customarily receive tips.  Employees may voluntarily participate, or they can be required to participate by the employer.

In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision, Cumbie v. Woody Woo, Inc. (596 F.3d 577 (9th Cir. 2010), which held that DOL limitations on an employer's use of the employee's tips did not apply when the employer does not take a tip credit.  In states like Oregon and Washington, where the employer must pay a tipped employee the full minimum wage and is prohibited by state law from taking a tip credit, the employer is permitted to impose a mandatory tip-pooling arrangement and insist that tipped employees share their tips with back-of-the-house employees, not just with employees who customarily receive tips.  The court's ruling was a significant win for employers in the Ninth Circuit; the employer was represented by Garvey Schubert Barer (my partner, Eric Lindenauer, gets full credit), amicus briefs were filed by Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and others, and the DOL even submitted a brief and argued part of the case for the employee -- and lost.   

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Greg Duff, Editor
Greg Duff founded and chairs GSB’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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