Helpful Information from Our Friends at CHOC

Helpful Information from Our Friends at CHOC

In our efforts to offer as much helpful and timely information as possible, we wanted to share the following tips that the Choice Hotel Owners Council had recently shared with its membership. Many thanks to CHOC Chairman Sam Patel and Executive Director Cassandra Hill for their assistance during this period.

There is also a FAQ Section following that we at ELFA found very helpful. Please expand below to read more.

Pro-Active Steps:

·        Immediately reaching out to your lender and making sure of the following:

·        Your file is updated;

·        Sharing with your lender information showing revenue declines/reservation cancellations;

·        Asking your lender the process involved for a request for rate reduction, interest only and/or forbearance so that you can start preparing from now.

·        You should also reach out to your liability insurance company on any coverage you might have due to loss of business. In addition, you should also request that your liability insurance, workers’ compensation and employment practices and liability insurance providers to provide education on safety, sanitation and proper hygiene along with all applicable laws. 

·        Your chemical provider is also a resource for you. They can provide you and your team with training on proper chemical usage so that your hotel is staying properly disinfected.

·        Choice Hotels, AH&LA, AAHOA and IFA are all sending emails and/or conducting webinars on topics ranging from the economic impact of the virus to safety, sanitation and proper hygiene along with applicable EEOC and OSHA regulations relevant to this issue.

·        ChoiceCentral home page has all the information you need on Choice’s enhanced reservation cancellation policy. 

·        Review your reporting on ChoiceAdvantage so that you are seeing your reservation cancellations and adjusting your room rates and staffing accordingly. Specifically, your reservation activity and cancellation list reports will provide you with room cancellations. 

·        Your local tourism development council can also be a resource for you in terms of future groups and/or groups needing rooms resulting from displacement due to the virus. Hotels in college towns should contact their college/university and set up a locally negotiated rate for college students displaced due to school closures.  Thinking outside of the box for new revenue streams will be invaluable to mitigate your losses. 

·        You also need to reach out to your local, state and federal elected officials. Some communities are considering a short-term refund of bed taxes to impacted hotels.

·        I would encourage you also to utilize the website as a resource on the virus. The CDC also has guidance on employee risk assessment.

·        Cross training your personnel to account for potential absenteeism resulting from sickness and/or school closures.  

·        Plan in advance and anticipate supply chain disruptions when ordering items.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of COVID‐19?

The virus can manifest in symptoms ranging from a mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The CDC currently believes that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 2 weeks after exposure. There is no easy way to test for COVID‐19; however, a test kit for detecting COVID‐19 began shipping to qualified U.S. and international labs in February. The test kit was developed by the CDC.

How is COVID‐19 transmitted?

People can catch COVID‐19 from others infected with the virus. It can spread from through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID‐19 coughs or exhales. These droplets also land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID‐19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. Therefore, it is important to stay more than 3 feet away from a person who is sick. The CDC recommends as much as 6 feet. It is possible to catch the virus from someone even before they have symptoms, but little is known about this aspect of the virus at this time.

What if an employee appears sick?

If any employee presents themselves at work with a fever or difficulty in breathing, this indicates that they should seek medical evaluation. While these symptoms are not always associated with influenza and the likelihood of an employee having the COVID‐19 coronavirus is extremely low, it pays to err on the side of caution. Retrain your supervisors on the importance of not overreacting to situations in the workplace potentially related to COVID‐19 in order to prevent panic among the workforce.

Can we ask an employee to stay home or to leave work if they exhibit symptoms of COVID‐19 or the flu?

Yes. You can ask an employee to seek medical attention and to get tested for COVID‐19.

What are the steps we can take now to minimize the risk of transmission?

Overly stress to and encourage employees and others to take the same steps they would take to avoid the flu (see list above). The best offense is to avoid exposure. Employees should stay home if they are sick.

Can an employee refuse to come to work because of fear of infection?

Employees may only refuse to work if they fear they are in imminent danger. Section 13(a) of the

Occupational Safety and Health Act defines “imminent danger” to include “any conditions or practices in any place of employment which are such that a danger exists which can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated through the enforcement procedures otherwise provided by this Act.” The employee must believe that death or serious physical harm would occur within a short time, such as before OSHA could investigate the threat. Most work conditions in the U.S. do not meet these criteria. However, you must determine whether such a threat exists in your workplace before determining whether employees are allowed to refuse to work.

Can an employer refuse an employee’s request to wear a medical mask or respirator?

In most circumstances, yes. OSHA rules establish when a mask or respirator is not required. Additionally,

The World Health Organization has stated that face masks are only needed by people treating someone who is infected with COVID‐19. Further, wearing a face mask may create a false sense of security. Simply washing your hands is a better defense to COVID‐19 or the flu than wearing a mask or respirator.

Can we prohibit an employee from traveling on their personal time?

No, you cannot prohibit an employee from participating in a legal activity. However, you can educate your employees as to the current risks associated with travel to areas of high concern, and you can monitor these employees upon return for signs of illness.

I have an employee who recently traveled to an affected area or may have otherwise been exposed to

COVID‐19. What should I do?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) restricts the inquiries that an employer can make into an employee’s medical status. The ADA prohibits employers from making disability‐related inquiries and requiring medical examinations, unless (1) the employer can show that the inquiry or exam is job‐related and consistent with business necessity, or (2) where the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot otherwise be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whether a particular outbreak rises to the level of a “direct threat” depends on the severity of the illness. The EEOC instructs employers that the assessment by the CDC or public health authorities provides the objective evidence needed for a disability‐related inquiry or medical examination. To date, the CDC has not classified the COVID‐19 coronavirus as a pandemic.

Can my employees refuse to travel as part of their job?

Employees who object on behalf of others or act in groups could be covered by the NLRA’s protection of concerted protected activity. Consult with your labor and employment attorney before taking any steps in this regard. Moreover, under the federal OSH Act, employees can only refuse to work when a realistic threat is present.

If an employee refuses to travel for business for fear of catching the COVID‐19 coronavirus, try to work out an amicable resolution. You can check and discuss with the employee the latest CDC, U.S. State

Department and Department of Homeland Security travel guidelines.

The CDC is also advising that some individuals may be more at risk of infection than others in the general population. Thus, follow the CDC direction on pregnant employees or on related reproductive issues, and do not make decisions without medical support. Moreover, actions by other countries, especially in Asia, may cause employee concerns, and absolute warnings and restrictions like those on China may not exist.

Please keep in mind that the COVID‐19 threat is dynamic, and information is updated and changed frequently. This notice is intended to provide you with a starting point for addressing the potential threat with your employees and in your workplace. For more and current information, regularly check with the CDC, WHO, and other governmental agencies such as those listed herein.

Louis Smith