Avoiding unwanted litigation: Three legal issues all hotels can encounter - Insights

Avoiding unwanted litigation: Three legal issues all hotels can encounter

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Avoiding unwanted litigationThere’s a vast number of reasons why a person may want to spend a night at your hotel. For instance, they might be business travelers, and they merely need a place to rest their heads at night before heading back home the next day. On the other hand, they might also be starry-eyed honeymooners, and they’re looking for an indulgent and upscale room to stay in while they revel in their marital bliss. 

Regardless of their reasons for travel, however, it’s often the goal of any reputable property to provide them with a positive experience during their stay. Unfortunately, even the most careful hotel manager can encounter unexpected issues when tending to their valued guests. From a guest getting injured while on your property to honest misunderstandings, there is a myriad of legal technicalities that can impact both your bottom line and the long-term solvency of your hotel. 

While it’s admittedly tempting to want to believe that you’ll never face any of them, it remains incredibly important to stay informed about these problems to prevent unexpected litigation. To help safeguard yourself and your hotel from a costly lawsuit harming both your bottom line and your reputation, here are three of the more common issues that every hotel property can face – and how you can successfully avoid them.

Accidental discrimination

As a manager of a hotel, the last thing you would ever want to do is to make your guests have a less-than-stellar experience while on your property. You strive to make everyone feel welcome, no matter their particular demographics or the reason for their stay. No matter how hard you may try to create a warm and inclusive environment, though, a simple misunderstanding between yourself and a guest can quickly lead to an unwelcome lawsuit.

Take, for instance, asking a guest for their photo identification before letting them check into their room for the night. This is a fairly standard procedure, but should the guest interpret hostility from your staff as they hand over their personal information, they might mistakenly believe that they were targeted due to their appearance. Another example is asking a guest to show their key to demonstrate they are indeed paying guests. While you may be simply trying to avoid trespassers, this could easily read as discrimination if handled inappropriately.

Guest injuries

Even the most careful hotel managers can find themselves facing a lawsuit from a guest who may have injured themselves while staying at your property. Furthermore, while it may seem on the surface that the harm that befell them was all but preventable, perhaps a little more vigilance could have prevented it from occurring in the first place. Because of this, it’s especially essential to be extremely fastidious in protecting both yourself and your guests.

Common injuries that can arise can include slip and fall accidents, strain and sprain injuries, food poisoning, and even assault from other hotel guests (or even staff). For instance, should a guest trip over a misplaced ottoman in their room, you could be culpable for it. If they help themselves to the breakfast buffet and develop salmonella, this also can fall on your shoulders. Finally, nobody anticipates one of their valued guests attacking or harming another, but sadly, these things can and do happen.

Personal theft

When a crime occurs on your property, not only does it violate the victim themselves, but it can also lead to a sense of betrayal on your behalf, too. Whether one of your staff wronged a guest or someone snuck onto the premises to take advantage of an unsuspecting person, nobody likes to find out that a crime happened while on their watch. It can understandably feel like a personal betrayal if your staff was the party responsible for the theft, especially if it was someone you trusted.

These thefts can encompass a variety of losses, too. For instance, misappropriation of personal property can occur, especially if a guest’s room wasn’t sufficiently secured. Identity theft is also a growing problem, particularly in this modern era where most transactions tend to be digital. Even approaching the alleged perpetrator can be a legal minefield, as you want to be extremely diplomatic and tactful when navigating accusations. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing more than one lawsuit from it.

What can be done?

No doubt, knowing how vulnerable you and your hotel are can be quite stressful. It’s important to note, though, that this doesn’t mean that you’re any less of a manager for it. Unexpected incidents happen, even when you believe you had audited your property extensively enough to avoid them. Nonetheless, these can be a powerful learning experience, and it’s always prudent to implement more stringent measures to avoid them from happening again.

Taking the time to train your employees is critical, as it can help them learn how to approach guests to avoid inadvertently offending or alienating them. Kitchen staff also need to be trained on food handling safety, as this can minimize the risk of guests becoming ill. Comprehensive background checks are also imperative, as they can alert you to any red flags on potential hires’ work and criminal history.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to have an attorney on hand to consult when you do have uncertainties. You do not want to wait until after an incident transpires, as preventative maintenance is always ideal to keep yourself and your guests out of harm’s way. Finding a good lawyer can be difficult, though, especially if you have no legal experience and aren’t sure where to start. A knowledgeable recruiter can help narrow down your choices, making it easier for you to get the legal protection you deserve.

Depending on the location of your property, you can readily find San Francisco, New York City, Vancouver, and Toronto legal recruiters who can guide you toward the legal assistance you need. By being proactive about this, you can ideally avoid encountering any of these major risks, better affording you the ability to give your guests the positive experience they have grown to expect from your property. And in turn, you can remain confident that you’ve done everything in your power to keep your hotel running smoothly both now and in the coming years.

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