Historically, the United States has continuously attracted international commerce and investment. In recent years, in spite of a challenging economic situation, international hospitality groups continue to seek opportunities in the US for financial growth, promotion, and strategic reasons. When they do so, they must comply with unfamiliar and complex labor and employment laws which are constantly changing. In the US especially, the increasingly litigious environment can affect every step of the enterprise – right from the start. Particularly, in a presidential election year, international hospitality groups that are planning to hire and employ a workforce in the US are advised keep apprised of legal shifts in these three important areas:  

Health Care Reform

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Health Care Reform,” was enacted into law to extend and amend health insurance coverage to employees in the United States. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the law’s validity, and a decision is expected in June 2012. Hospitality groups, in particular, will need to plan ahead in light of the decision and prepare to manage significantly increasing costs of coverage.

Management-Labor Relations

In the United States, trade unions have reemerged as a power base to ostensibly represent employees’ interests.  The current state of the US economy, concerns about job security, the critical status of pension funds, and recent health care reforms will continue to collectively strengthen the unions’ hands in 2012 and 2013.  Unsurprisingly, there have been recent waves of pressure from the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) on employers.

A number of updates in this area will have major implications for hospitality providers in the US, including:

  • New notice posting requirements obliging employers to display posters informing workers of their right to unionize.
  • The appropriate standard to be applied in determining the scope of a bargaining unit is undergoing radical changes.
  • The NLRB amending its rules to make it easier for unions to organize employees through changing its election process.

Social Media

No business sector is immune to the profound impact social media is having on the workplace. Hospitality employers seeking to hire may be tempted to base employment assessments on data attained through social media.  However, there is a very thin line that must be carefully navigated when basing employment decisions on information gathered through the use of social media. Any social media policies an employer may wish to enforce on its workforce in the US will also need to be crafted creatively and be cognizant of content which is legally protected “concerted activity.” Such a policy will ensure that seemingly disproportionate social media policies do not result in charges of discrimination on the basis of union membership, while effectively protecting the valid business interests of the employer. 

It is no surprise that international hospitality groups can become the target of government scrutiny, especially in the run-up to the Presidential Elections. When setting up operations in a new country, hiring and employing a new workforce is a crucial process.  Early planning and preparation will put the employer in a much stronger position to steer these upcoming waves of change and ensure the success of the operation in the US. Doing it right – from the start – will have positive consequences for business productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line.