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The Changing Hotel Legal Environment: Being Prepared and Aware

The Changing Hotel Legal Environment: Being Prepared and Aware

The legal environment for the hospitality industry is constantly changing. In order to be able to respond to specific industry events and circumstances, industry professionals should examine the law, policies, regulations and laws across the industry (and beyond) with particular attention to human, political, and environmental needs.

The COVID-19 concerns have dominated the past few years and efforts to sustain and recover, and transition back into a new normal. According to this author, things will not return to pre-COVID-19. The operating and legal environment will adapt to the changing business environment.

Hospitality/Hotel Law Topics

The legal environment for all business sectors is changing to meet new challenges. The service industries are a key issue for society. Consumer rights protection is important in tourism and hospitality. This includes the right for quality service and the right of receiving services in compliance to the legal regulations (Adamenko, et al. 2020).

As part of the larger hospitality and tourism industry, the hotel industry responded in a variety ways to COVID-19. Its impacts on society, business, and all aspects of travel and tourism in general. As a result of this unprecedented crisis, new legal considerations were required. Andrew Hogenson of the St. Louis Lathrop GPM office noted that a temporary closing affects virtually every area of law related to the operation a hotel. This includes labor laws, regulatory laws (federal or state), agreements with lenders, franchise, management and licensure agreements, general debtor-creditor relations, tax law, and insurance laws.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association quickly organized and provided advice, notices and research to owners and operators of hotels and motels across the country in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The AHLA Safe Stay initiative helped operators to manage and handle issues related to the pandemic.

The AHLA examined meetings and events, indoor-quality check lists, Safe Stay property signage, vaccine fliers, and Safe Stay property signage. The Safe Stay program also included education courses and a council that focused on guest and employee health, cleaning and disinfecting products, protocols, and protocols. It also included the creation a hotel cleaning checklist and guest checklist. The AHLA quickly reacted as expected to the crisis. legal disclaimer.

Hospitality business programs do not have a law school, but they focus on the management and control for hospitality businesses. It is a standard procedure for a higher education hotel business school to offer a course on hospitality or hotel law. Managers in hospitality businesses need to be familiar with the legal environment in order to manage and exercise reasonable care in their daily management tasks. A review of hospitality business programs reveals courses in accommodation, food service, events, and tourism.

In addition, traditional business disciplines like accounting, finance, marketing and management, as well as business law, are available and can be applied to hospitality industry situations. Hospitality Law courses cover topics like labor laws and franchising, risk management, insurance, and many other topics. The textbooks and syllabi for Hospitality Law organize legal topics under headings such as prevention, government, hospitality business operation, contract law, and legal responsibilities for hotel operators (Adapted from Barth & Barber, 2017).

The STEM process is often used to introduce the topic. It is “select. teach. educate. and manage”. (Barth & Barber, 2017). This process is logical and logical from an educational standpoint, but it can be overwhelming for students to absorb in a semester. This is because students will not be lawyers, but they should be able apply knowledge of the legal environment to planning, managing and controlling their hospitality operations. Faculty can set the tone and guide others in ethical decision-making and procedure. While personal ethics may differ from the law, they are both closely linked. The importance of local, state, and federal regulations should be emphasized in hospitality management curriculums.

The content of more specific headings includes ethics, government regulations (federal, state, local), immigration and employment, agency relations, franchising and the Uniform Commercial code (UCC), management contract, immigration, payroll. Discrimination, liability, food, and beverage concerns, as well as the management and responses to crises. This brings us to the current COVID-19 epidemic and its impact on the hospitality industry.

Hospitality law courses cover many topics. Due to the changing legal environment, these courses are constantly being updated to address current issues. In most states, business people have a duty of care to protect their patrons or customers from injury. Although there are no published decisions defining what constitutes “reasonable care” during the COVID-19 pandemics, most hospitality business owners did implement safety protocols to protect themselves against future COVID-19-related liability claims. 2020).

Coursework: Legal Topics

Although many legal topics are included in course work, students are not immersed in them like they would be at law school. Below are some examples of descriptors and goals that could be used in a hospitality law course. These were taken from our school’s curriculum.

  • Knowledge:Identify the four components that are essential for a contract to be valid. Describe the responsibilities of a manager/owner in relation to employee selection and discrimination during the selection process. Discuss the legal duties that hospitality operators must fulfill.
  • Think:
    Identify the basic principles of law and how they apply in a hospitality setting. You will need to understand the theories of bailment in order to be able implement policies that limit your legal liability.
  • Value:Demonstrate reasonable care to protect the stockholders, employees and guests, as well as the greater community.
  • Communicate:Analyze and appraise a situation in accordance with legal theory, and develop, implement, and evaluate prevention strategies.
  • Lead:Recognize how to manage their business in an ethical, legal, and morally responsible way. (Adapted from the Master Syllabus, HMGT4244, Hospitality Law School of Hospitality Leadership College of Business, East Carolina University.

The following list of legal topics includes topics that are frequently discussed in hospitality law courses, including those related to hospitality. These topics are also included in the sample of content.

  • Hotel Property Development Real estate law, leases etc.
  • Human ResourcesEmployee selection, discrimination in selection process, ADA verification of eligibility to work. Employment relationships, workplace discrimination andsexual harassment. Family and Medical Leave Act, uniforms employment and reemployment right act, compensation, overtime, tipped employees. Benefits.
  • Lodging:Your responsibilities as a hostess operator include guest privacy, guest privacy, liability to guests and removal of guests.
  • Food and BeverageServing food and beverages, serving foodborne illness, truth in the menu laws, and serving alcohol laws are your responsibilities.
  • Hospitality LawFranchising and management contracts, conference service contracts, liability and security issues, human traficking, crisis management programs. There are many other legal issues and topics that can be explored.

The Changing Legal Hotel Environment: Issues & Content

The hotel industry was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic like no other historical event. The pandemic has also brought up legal issues that hoteliers should consider when and if their hotel needs to be closed. This could include furloughing employees or laying them off, and applying for government aid under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. (Perkowsky,2020). The uniformity and consistency in processes will be achieved by identifying the capabilities of managers during the hiring process. These topics are important for service environments and relate directly to standard operating procedures in human resources activities.

As a young manager, I valued company policies and rules. They provided the guidelines for company procedures and allowed me to do my job properly. What became clear was that the policies and rules a company made were not necessarily laws. We must be prepared for the unexpected when we plan for recovery and move forward to create new operating standards in the lodging business. It is common to have a crisis plan. We need to ensure that our students understand that a crisis plan is an important part of managing their legal environment.

Managers are not legal experts if they take a course in hospitality or business law. Managers must consider when it is appropriate to include legal representation and input when planning and operating lodging operations. As the lodging industry matures and becomes more complex, its business processes and practices have become more sophisticated. The complex issues of branding, logo protection, franchising, and management contracts have many provisions that affect owners, operators, as well as guests.

As a young manager, I received correspondence stating that a law firm represented a well-known operator/competitor within the region. The letter stated that we (the company) had to stop using their logo. As the manager of the company, I was the representative of that company and immediately shared the notice with headquarters. My employer apparently didn’t properly research existing brands when creating this brand.

The logo used had to be changed. I wasn’t an expert in brand infringement, so I needed to hire legal counsel at the corporate level. While we encourage creativity in hospitality business education, it is important to do legal research. Many activities and actions in lodging or other hospitality businesses can be considered normal operations without considering their legal environment. While we don’t want our operations to be halted by legal issues, it is important to be thoughtful.

In today’s environment, safety and security are top priorities. COVID-19 has increased employee and guest safety to unprecedented levels. Safe Stay procedures previously discussed by the AHLA as I see them, are now current and sustaining standards. Meeting planners will ask for information about safety and sanitation procedures at their hotels. Lodging workers will continue to demand safe and sanitary work environments.

Due to the current staffing problems in the hospitality industry, legal issues have been raised about mask mandates and requiring employees have received the COVID-19 vaccination. Numerous government entities and business sectors are currently facing issues related to employee vaccinations. Perceived risk to health, as Greenhalgh & Rosenblatt have noted, can lead in some cases to job insecurity (PJI). (Adapted by Greenhalgh & Rosenblatt (1984). It is possible to argue that hospitality recruiting continues to be plagued by perceived risk due COVID-19. Front-line employees in high-contact hospitality environments can be at risk for COVID-19 infection. It is important to note that PJI can have both affective (emotional reactions by individuals to potential adverse change) and cognitive (undesirable events perceived by individuals). (Jiang & Lavaysse (2018) Operators must create a safe, secure work environment and be held accountable.

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The hospitality and lodging business sectors will continue to hire and select qualified employees. The labor market is just as difficult as in other service industries, such healthcare and retail. They have aggressively recruited furloughed and separated hospitality workers. The industry faces the challenge of attracting these former employees back. Notable is also the fact that the hospitality sector is a global industry and has struggled to attract and keep the best qualified people. Many sectors of the hospitality sector have long employed international staff.

United States-based organizations must support these hiring efforts by assisting potential employees with obtaining work visas. This has been a difficult and increasingly difficult task in a COVID-19 legal context. The global pandemic impacted immigration and border crossings. Restrictions on international travel, etc. Global hiring efforts have been complicated by restrictions on international travel. It is reasonable to hire an international candidate rather than a citizen who is work-eligible. The lodging industry has responded to this question by stating that there are not enough qualified applicants.

This author, for example, has provided evaluations for law firms requesting an educational assessment for international candidates for management positions in US hotel companies. Assessment of educational equivalency involves comparing a US-based hospitality business curriculum to international education and experience.

Working with the Law

The issue of recruitment is a pressing concern for both graduates of hospitality business programs and hospitality businesses. Given the amount of business closings, furloughs, layoffs, and furloughs since the pandemic started, most lawsuits regarding employees are about hiring. They focus on what was promised to former employees, the questions that were asked during screening, and the basis for hiring decisions. Employers should keep these issues in their minds when bringing back employees.

Ekelman and colleagues (2021) asked whether an employer must rehire employees before considering applicants. Can an employer legally hire a applicant and refuse to hire a laid-off worker? Although the answer is yes, they recommend that employers review their recruitment plans and identify best practices for evaluating applicants. The best way for employers to ensure fair and legal hiring decisions is to train interviewers as well as decision makers.


There is no single person to blame in the COVID-19 crisis era for the pandemic or its impact on lodging operations. It is not clear if the COVID-19 crises could have been avoided. Hotel owners and operators should be prepared for any future crises. To ensure that a hotel business is protected, it is important to have a plan in place for legal, efficient, and effective operation. Also, make sure to use all resources available (e.g. Safe Stay guidelines are a “reasonable effort” to create a safe environment. This strategy will ultimately help a hotel regain its market share.

Education is a crucial step in understanding the law and its relation to hospitality businesses. Our graduates need to be hired and placed in hospitality business programs. Hospitality business education can reinforce fairness and impartiality when managing lodging and hospitality operations. It also guides students and graduates to act ethically and legally with all its stakeholders. The law of hospitality can be taught to reinforce purpose, consistency. impartiality, best practices and documentation (Ekelamn and al., 2021).

As a former manager in the hospitality industry and as a professor, I remember hearing legal language such as exercising “reasonable care” or “necessary” from enabling legislation regarding concession operations in national parks. We hear a lot about “apparent agency” in franchising, leasing scenarios, etc. This is a narrow framework and will not provide any additional context. Although most hospitality faculty are not lawyers, some are. However, our role in this important area requires us to be aware of the potential impact of legislation and issues on operations as well as liability. The constant monitoring of the evolving legal landscape in hospitality is a key part of our mission.


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