FDA’s Final Guidance on Menu-Labeling Regulations and What It Means to Hotel Owners and Operators

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have been following the development and implementation of the FDA’s new menu-labeling regulations with some interest. After multiple rounds of drafts and public comment periods, the agency now has issued its final guidance for compliance with the new rules. According to the FDA’s press release, the guidance is intended to respond to the most frequently-asked questions from business potentially subject to the new rules, and “differs from the draft guidance by providing additional examples and new or revised questions and answers on topics such as covered establishments, alcoholic beverages, catered events, mobile vendors, grab-and-go items, and record keeping requirements.”

Nevertheless, the final guidance does not appear to substantively change the prior drafts insofar as the hospitality industry is concerned. Perhaps most noteworthy to hotel owners and operators is that the FDA has maintained the position, described in the earlier draft guidance, that a hotel’s complimentary breakfast would not be considered food offered for sale and thus would not be subject to the menu-labeling requirements.

As before, that guidance comes with the caveat that it merely reflects the “current thinking” of the FDA and does not establish binding rights or duties. Thus, while the guidance may be called “final,” the agency’s “current thinking” could always shift as the regulations – which are set to take effect in May 2017 – begin to be enforced.  Which might lead one to wonder, what’s in a label, anyway? Only time will tell.

Tipping the Scales: Restaurants’ “Service-Included” Trend Is Not for Everyone

One big trend in the restaurant industry is no-tipping policies, replacing the optional gratuity line on the bill with a “service included” mandatory charge or higher menu prices. After a number of successful restaurants having tried and failed to transition successfully to this model, the service-included model is not necessarily the future of the industry.

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Pacific Northwest Chapter: May Education Program

The PCMA Pacific Northwest Chapter’s May education program was held on May 18, 2016 at the Metropolist in Seattle, Washington.  For those of you who attended, or did not attend the program, my presentation, “The Evolution of Contract Negotiations” is available below. The presentation covers a number of current hospitality group sales contracting issues, including some thoughts on the future of the group travel segment.  A huge thanks to the PCMA Northwest Chapter for inviting me to attend.

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The Wait Is Over – The New Overtime Rules Are Here: The Reconfiguration of Your Compensation System Is Just Beginning

Old computer clocking inThe good news is the long awaited rule on overtime has arrived – finally. The proposed rule goes into effect on December 1, 2016. The quick summary is the changes aren’t quite as bad as everyone feared. The long summary is below. We have broken out the rules into specific talking points to try and make them easier to digest. This does not erase the entire prospect of heartburn, however. The Department of Labor has also developed a page of Questions and Answers on the new rule, which includes a comparison between the old rule and the new rule.

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Can SafeHer, a Women-For-Women Ridesharing Company, Overcome the Challenges of Anti-Discrimination Laws?

Despite lawsuits and persistent legal uncertainties, the “sharing economy” is booming, and the companies at its forefront continue to grow.  Some of these businesses are a natural complement to the hotel industry, while others directly compete with it.  Whatever may become of these companies as they are reined in by regulation, one thing is certain: the rise or fall of the “sharing economy” will define the landscape of the hospitality sector in the decades ahead.

Ridesharing giant Uber raised $2.1 billion in its most recent round of funding, buoyed by a valuation of more than $65 billion – a remarkable ascendance for the five-year-old company.  Its success has attracted a wave of new entrants seeking to gain a foothold in this burgeoning market.  But the road to a share of the sharing economy is fraught with legal peril.

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2016 Hospitality Upgrade’s Executive Vendor Summit

2016 Hospitality Upgrade’s Executive Vendor Summit is held in Atlanta, GA on March 30 – April 1, 2016.

For those of you who attended, or did not attend the conference, my presentation, “Evolving US and EU Privacy Laws”, is available below. The presentation reviews the rapidly changing landscape of US and EU privacy regulations and how compliance with those regulations will affect hotels and their many vendors and suppliers. 

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Update on Seattle Wage Theft Prevention and Harmonization Ordinance

Scales of justiceCharles Hausberg is a guest author and a member of GSB’s Labor and Employment practice group. You can reach Charles at chausberg@gsblaw.com or at 206.816.1525. 

In December 2015, the City of Seattle passed the “Wage Theft Prevention and Harmonization Ordinance,” which made changes to all four of Seattle’s labor standards ordinances—Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST), Minimum Wage, Wage Theft, and Fair Chance Employment.

Across the board, the new law provides harsher penalties for noncompliance than in the past. For example, there is now a rebuttable presumption that an employer has retaliated if it takes adverse action within 90 days of the employee’s exercise of protected rights. An employer in this situation must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the protected activity was not a factor in the decision to take adverse action. Thus, it is essential to carefully document all responses to concerns about employees’ protected rights as well as reasons for adverse employment actions.

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Please Don’t Pass the Salt (Labels): The Fight Over NYC’s Sodium Labeling Rule

Sticky note with saltAfter surviving its first go-around in court, New York City’s attempt to require restaurateurs to add sodium warnings to their menus has hit a roadblock in the form of a temporary injunction.

Perhaps taking inspiration from the FDA’s recent imposition of nutrition-labeling requirements on restaurant menus, the New York City Board of Health had approved a menu-labeling regulation of its own this past December. Under the regulation, the New York City Health Code was amended to require “Food Service Establishments” (or “FSEs”) to post salt-shaker icons on their menus next to any food item containing more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium – the FDA’s recommended daily allowance of the delicious mineral. The regulation also requires FSEs to include a statement on their menus that “[h]igh sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke.”

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Oregon’s Minimum Wage – What Now?

Oregon is making history, once again. The new minimum wage law (signed by Governor Brown on March 2, 2016) brings two new titles: 1.) the first state to implement a tiered minimum wage (the amount paid is dependent upon the location of the business); and 2.) the state with the highest minimum wage.  The passage of the new law has brought a mixed response. The cheers have emanated from the employees and the advocates for a livable wage. The jeers have emanated from businesses trying to figure out how they are going to keep their doors open. While the law is effective immediately, the first increase goes into effect July 1, 2016. So, without further ado, let’s get to the details so you can determine which camp you are joining.  Continue Reading

Sea-Tac Wage and Hour Class Action Lawsuits

Sea-Tac airportFourteen lawsuits were filed last week against employers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for paying less than the $15 minimum wage approved by Sea-Tac voters in 2013. Defendants include baggage handling firms, rental car agencies, food-service establishments and logistics firms. These lawsuits have been filed by defendants represented by Attorney Duncan Turner of Badgley Mullins Turner and seek class action status. The lawsuits currently cover about 40 plaintiffs, although Mr. Turner estimates this could grow to 1,500 plaintiffs and that total back-pay sought could be $14 to $21 million.

Alaska Airlines and three other plaintiffs had filed a lawsuit arguing that the Sea-Tac minimum wage should not apply to the airport. The State Supreme Court ruled against them in August, 2015, and in December, 2015 rejected a request to review the case.

If you have any questions about these lawsuits, would like to review a copy of one of the complaints, or would like to discuss applicable wage & hour issues, please feel free to contact Greg Duff at gduff@gsblaw.com or 206.816.1470.

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