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Family Med Leave

Oregon officially became the most inclusive law in the country, with respect to paid family and medical leave, when Governor Katy Brown signed the bill into law last week (July 1, 2019).

  • The law covers 12 weeks annually, to new parents, victims of domestic violence, and people who need to take care of an ill family member or themselves; an extra two weeks is given for those giving birth (New Jersey is the only other state which includes domestic violence victims in paid leave legislation)
  • Family is defined to include “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family relationship”
  • Oregon will be the first to pay low-income works 100% of their wages when they’re off, with weekly benefits capped at around $1,215 (you must earn at least $1,000 in wages a year to qualify)
  • The law will be funded through a payroll tax (not to exceed 1% of employee wages)
  • Employees pay 60% of the total rate and employers will cover the remaining 40%
  • Employers with less than 25 employees will not pay into the program
  • The program will start taking contributions in 2022, and people will be able to start using it in 2023
  • Research suggests paid family and medical leave improves participation rates for new mothers in the labor force, with corresponding benefits in pay equality, infant and child health, and lowers poverty rate
  • The program will take a few years to get started because it’s a new social insurance program, just like unemployment insurance or workers compensation.

The additional states that have adopted a paid family and medical leave policy include the following (along with the effective date):

    • California (2004)
    • New Jersey (2009)
    • Rhode Island (2014)
    • New York (2018)
    • District of Columbia (2020)
    • Washington (2020)
    • Massachusetts (2021)
    • Connecticut (2022)

Paid leave is on the national legislative agenda with new momentum.  This new law in Oregon represents the eighth state, along with the District of Columbia, to adopt a paid family and medical leave policy.  Full wage compensation for American workers in poverty will likely motivate more employees to take advantage of paid leave benefits.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives and that your pay practices are fair, equitable and non-discriminatory.  We can provide your business with compensation surveys and salary reports to help you establish a budget for your merit pay program, including bonuses and incentives.  Our innovative company is a leader in the collection of data for surveys and salary reports, which allows us to provide services to a wide range of industries in both the private and public sector.  To learn more about our compensation surveys, salary reports, and other services.  Please call 480-237-6130 or contact us online.


Pay Compress-B

Pay compression is when either a subordinate’s base pay is very close to or more than their supervisor’s or when a less tenured employee is equal to or paid more than a senior employee in the same position.  One of the most common causes of pay compression is when pay increases for current employees are low, but new employees are paid a higher salary to attract them.  This problem becomes more severe in economic downturns when pay increases are limited but it occurs even in better economic times.  Pay compression is most evident in pay systems where lower level jobs, either through union contracts or other market forces, create a situation where first-line supervisors are paid less, on an hourly basis, than their subordinates.

When the job market is weak, many organizations hire people who had already done the same work for another organization, eliminating the need for training.  Rather than hiring people with high potential and developing them for the long term, they have opted for people who can “hit the ground running,” regardless of their potential.

When salary compression and the policies that enable it are sustained over several years, it can be demoralizing and lead to widespread employee dissatisfaction.  Employers should be concerned because salary compression can transform compensation from a motivator into a de-motivator.

Salary compression may be accompanied by pay inequities which could violate equal pay regulations.  In situations where newer staff earn more than experienced staff, it could create a pay equity problem if the experienced staff are a protected class.

There are steps that can limit the detrimental effects of salary compression.  For instance, when a new job opens, organizations should try to promote someone from within, rather than hiring from the outside.  Many organizations have policies that limit how high within a range, new hires can be paid.  When new hires are brought in at higher salaries or when across the board increases are given due to market movement or minimum wage increase, have a policy that requires internal equity analysis and adjustments.

Institute a policy of transparency and calibration across units.  Disparate actions between different organizational units can create salary compression and other inequities.  Transparency can take the form of a simple scorecard showing the rates of increases and promotions in each unit.  Calibration can involve managers sharing planned compensation actions with their peer managers.  It can also include several levels of approval for any actions before they take place so that a senior leader can spot any actions that appear suspect and will cause inequities, including compression.  This tends to create a norm and, over time, leads to decisions that are more consistent and responsible.

Salary compression can be a serious problem that eventually causes an organization to lose some of its most talented employees.  Although many organizations have unintentionally allowed salary compression to take root, there are actions they can take now and in the future to keep it from reoccurring.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives.  WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times.  This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards.  For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.


The current federal minimum wage, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), is $7.25 per hour which has been in effect since July 2009.  States have the ability to set a rate that is higher than the federal minimum rate and employers are obligated to pay the higher rate.  Currently, there are 29 states that have laws at the state or local level mandating higher pay than the federal rate.

On September 4, 2018, the Department of Labor published a Notice in the Federal Register to announce that, beginning January 1, 2019, the Executive Order 13658 minimum wage rate is increased to $10.60 per hour.  This Executive Order minimum wage rate generally must be paid to workers performing work on or in connection with covered contracts.  Additionally, beginning January 1, 2019, tipped employees performing work on or in connection with covered contracts generally must be paid a minimum cash wage of $7.40 per hour.

Voters across many states approved ballot measures to raise their state minimum rates over time, with increases occurring through 2020 and beyond.  There are 19 states which have an increase that takes effect on December 31, 2018 or January 1, 2019, including:  1) Alaska, 2) Arizona, 3) Arkansas, 4) California, 5) Colorado, 6) Delaware, 7) Florida, 8) Maine, 9) Massachusetts, 10) Minnesota, 11) Missouri, 12) Montana, 13) New Jersey, 14) New York, 15) Ohio, 16) Rhode Island, 17) South Dakota, 18) Vermont, 19) Washington.

For more details, click on the following link to view the WageWatch Minimum Wage Chart with details of federal, state and local minimum wage increases:  WageWatch – U.S. Minimum Wage Increases.  In addition to the statewide minimum wage increase, multiple states have approved minimum wage increases that are higher than the statewide average.  (The increases are referenced in the attached Excel spreadsheet).  There is one state, Oregon, and the District of Columbia that have scheduled their wage increase to begin on July 1, 2019.

Although there are no statewide minimum wage increases, there are several states in which specific cities and/or counties which have wage increases scheduled to occur on 1/1/2019; these states include:  Illinois, Maryland, and New Mexico.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.


With unemployment shrinking to 3.7%, as recently reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor market is the tightest it has been in 50 years.

New job openings continue to exceed the numbers reported as unemployed, which puts finding and retaining talent front and center for the hotel industry as hotels compete for new employees with each other and with other industries such as healthcare, food service and retail.

The forecast by STR, parent company of Hotel News Now, of new hotel openings at or around 2% a year through 2019 means hotel room count will increase by an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 rooms by the end of next year.  In terms of housekeepers alone, this equates to another 10,000 to 13,500 new employees just to clean the rooms. Overall, the hotel industry has reached a new employment high every month since the end of the Great Recession and the recovery of the hotel industry beginning in 2010.

The tight labor market also has driven up wages across the country.  Salaries for jobs ranging from line positions at front desks and restaurants to GMs have increased well above the general wage increases experienced across the U.S.  Average annual wage increases in the hotel industry began to exceed 3% a year in 2014 and in 2018 surpassed 4%, compared to a national average wage increase of 1.9% in 2014 and 2.8% in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and WageWatch.


Even with wage increases in the hotel industry substantially higher than those in the private sector, human resources departments at hotel companies are finding it difficult to obtain and retain new employees.  Some of the issues that are repeatedly reported across the country include:

  • Difficulty hiring quality candidates who can pass a background check and a drug screening
  • New employees have a difficult time adhering to company attendance policies
  • High expectations by new employees of accommodations to be made by employers
  • A trend of applicants not showing up for job interviews
  • New millennial hires seem to be continually looking for their next gig

Looking ahead to 2019, wages in the hotel industry could see increases of 4% to 4.5% across the country, which could have a significant impact on bottom lines.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.



Posted in Economy, Wage Forecast on December 19th, 2018 · Comments Off on U.S. HOTEL INDUSTRY WAGE GROWTH OUTPACES NATION


You may think you are paying your employees fairly and equitably until the EEOC comes knocking at your door to perform an audit. It is commonly known that EEOC requires that all employees are treated fairly regardless of national origin, race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy and sexual orientation), disability or genetic information. And for employers with 20 or more employees, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act requires that you treat workers over 40 the same and younger workers. To be in complete compliance with EEO regulations, none of these factors can be used when you are hiring, promoting, disciplining and laying off workers. Additionally, private employers with at least 15 employees who work for you for 20 weeks or more a year must also comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and if you have a federal contract or subcontract you may be subject to EEO guidelines. Less commonly known is that fair treatment must also be extended to employees who marry someone of a different national origin, race, religion or color. What you don’t know can hurt you and therefore periodic pay equity self-audits are essential.

All forms of pay are covered by these regulations, for example; base salary, overtime pay, shift differentials, discretionary or non-discretionary bonuses, stock options, profit sharing plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, travel expenses, and benefits. If an inequality in wages between men and women is found, it cannot be corrected by reducing the wages of either sex.

To properly analyze your pay practices, you need to identify all factors that influence all types of compensation. Influencing factors may include:

• Company seniority
• Length of time in position
• Service interruptions
• Skills and experience required for the job
• Education, certifications, licenses, etc. required for the job
• Performance ratings
• Pay grade or level
• Historic pay increases
• Market Location
• Employment status such as Full-time/Part-time

Pay equity analysis should be performed that includes analysis by job group or salary grade; if no formal salary structure is in place, group by jobs with similar value and worth. Also, analyze by race and by gender. Ensure all your pay decisions are well documented as well as having good document retention policies in place. Of utmost importance is that you apply your compensation practices in a consistent manner and in accordance with your policies and procedures. If audited by the EEOC, you may need to defend your pay decisions and consistency and documentation will be crucial.

To protect your organization as well as ensure fair and equitable pay to all employees, it is essential to understand and stay up to date with all the regulations, ensure policies and procedures are in place for compliance and to perform periodic compliance audits. Even if you are in compliance today, that can easily and quickly change as your organization changes and evolves. Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures can significantly impact pay equity as well as the day-to-day business operations of hiring, terminating, promoting, transferring, and restructuring within the organization including the realignment of job duties.

At WageWatch our experienced compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs. We can help you ensure internal equity and compliance with regulations as well as help you structure your compensation programs to support your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

Hoteliers Face Complex Union Negotiations

(This column recently appeared in Hotel News Now where Randall Pullen is a columnist for their on-line publication)

I attended the annual Hospitality Law Conference recently concluded at the Houston Omni Hotel.  Besides meeting with many of the leading labor attorneys across the country, it is an opportunity to learn about the latest legal issues and rulings that are affecting hotel human resources and labor markets.  This year was no different; there are a lot of new developments that are or will impact the hospitality industry now and in the near future.

It would take several columns to just deal with the many unknowns of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as Obama Care, or the proposed changes to the immigration laws that are now being discussed in Congress, or with the many labor union contract negotiations scheduled to occur in 2013. While all three of these issues are very important to the Hospitality industry, I am going to focus on the upcoming negotiations between hotel companies and the labor union, UNITE HERE. There is much that can be learned from the last round of negotiations to prepare for this new round of union contract negotiations.

UNITE HERE represents the most hotel workers of any union with over 100,000 hotel workers in almost 1,000 hotels across the country.  The union currently has contracts with several of the major hotel companies that expire later this year.  The negotiations for the current contracts started in 2009 when the prior contracts expired, and were not signed until last year. The negotiations were contentious and drawn out due to many of the contracts expiring during the great recession. Management companies were looking for wage freezes, longer work hours as well as employees picking up a portion of the healthcare premium costs. Now, a year later the process will start all over.

In the prior negotiations, UNITE HERE made several changes in the tactics it used. The most notable was negotiating on a regional or national level with individual hotel companies instead of using the multi-employer model market by market previously used.  Once they achieved a concession from one employer, they would use it in negotiations with the other companies to accept a similar concession. Although carrying on multiple negotiations at one time made it more complex, the tactic appeared to work as they played management companies off against each other as well as in individual markets.

Also notable in several current contracts is the requirement that a successor company purchasing the hotel must honor the existing contract with the union.  This clause was added due to the many sales of hotels over the last 5 years where the contracts with the unions were ended and employees were rehired without a contract.  This expanded interpretation of succession was approved by the NLRB, which is quite different to how succession is typically determined. There have already been a number of hotel sales that have been cancelled due to this requirement.

Going forward this year, we will see a number of new tactics as well as some that were tried in the last round and will likely be front and center this time. Management companies successfully used poor financial performance as a tactic, which will not be available this time.  The strong recovery of the hotel industry with record occupancies and continued strong financial performance forecasted for 2013 and 2014 generally will preclude such a defense, even though RevPAR still lags.  For those markets not recovering as quickly as the major markets, hotel companies that make this argument will likely have to produce financial statements for all affiliated companies to prove there is a financial hardship.

We have already begun to see the counter arguments being made by the unions.  They are claiming that hotel companies have recovered and are making record profits.  The only ones left out of the recovery are the workers. A good example of this tactic is what occurred in Seattle last April.  In a report issued by SAGE (a union supported non-profit), Seattle Hotels Do Not Pay a Living Wage, they claimed that many hotel workers in downtown Seattle did not earn a living wage, had no benefits and a housekeeper’s job was more dangerous than working in a coal mine. Of course none of these claims were true, but it became a national news story. The AH&LA, with the help of WageWatch, was able to refute all of these claims.  No doubt, we will see this played out again and again this year and next as negotiations drag on into 2014.

UNITE HERE will intensify its efforts to negotiate one-on-one with management companies. The example they have made of Hyatt Hotels over the past 2 years is what awaits other management companies who refuse a union contract for all their hotels.  Flash mobs (Lady Gaga Flash Mob), boycotts (Hyatt Hurts) and employee lawsuits brought against individual hotels (Hyatt Settles Complaint) with the backing of the NLRB await those who don’t play ball.

Labor lawyers also believe a number of other provisions will become more mainstream in negotiations including: expanded successor language to require new owners to honor existing union contracts; more limitations on subcontracting of services including such things as prepackaged food, wedding cakes, arguing that such purchases equate to subcontracting culinary services; extended length of contract to 7 years; and significant wage increases to “catch-up” with wage freezes implemented during the recession.

Looking ahead, hotel companies will face an entirely new bargaining landscape in union negotiations this time around. Some of the lessons learned from the prior contract negotiations will likely shape the new negotiations, bargaining goals, concessions, and tactics employed. As more unions move toward the UNITE HERE model of nationally-focused bargaining strategies, employers that operate in multiple markets will be forced to take a “big picture” approach to their negotiations as well as to unique circumstances in individual markets. Smaller hotel companies that operate in a few markets or in a single market will be forced into accepting provisions negotiated with the major hotel companies or face the consequences.


Randall Pullen is President and CEO of WageWatch, Inc., which he founded in 1999 to design and implement Web-based wage and benefit surveys. Mr. Pullen’s work experience includes over 30 years of software development and consulting to the hotel industry. Mr. Pullen is a certified public accountant and a member of the AICPA. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics and an MBA from Arizona State University. He serves on the boards of a number of companies and associations, and is currently the Treasurer of the Arizona Housing Finance Authority.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

Copyright © 2004-2011 Smith Travel Research /DBA HotelNewsNow.com (HNN). All Rights Reserved.

WageWatch Looks Ahead to 2013


The New Year began with our political leadership in Washington, DC finally reaching an agreement on a permanent tax cut for 98% of Americans.  No longer will it be known as the temporary Bush tax cuts. It was not pretty to watch, but it was instructive. It marks the first of many more compromises that will be made during the year to begin the process of reigning in deficit spending and stabilizing our Nation’s debt crisis.

What does this mean to the U.S. economy and to employment for 2013?  Essentially, it is good news. This should not be as a surprise for most of our readers, but it probably means more of what we experienced in 2012.  A slow growing economy with employers cautiously hiring for critical positions, while trying to understand how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obama Care, will impact their costs and employee insurance plans.

Most economists agree with this scenario of slow growth with the possibility of the economy picking up speed later in the year if the private sector gains confidence in the future stability of the U.S. economy.  WageWatch will have more to say about the economy and the impact it will have on this year’s wage increases for the hotel and gaming industries when we publish our Employment Forecast 2013 next week. The forecast is based on our survey of over 4,000 properties late last month.

Looking at other trends for 2013, clearly, the ACA has garnered the most headlines during the year.  As we have previously reported, if you are a small business with 51 or more full time employees, you will be fined $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 employees, if you do not offer insurance for employees that work an average of 30 or more hours each week. For small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, there is no penalty. Small businesses of all sizes are also not required to provide insurance for part-time employees. We are already beginning to see examples of employers cutting back on the number of fulltime employees by reducing their hours. Also, look for small businesses with more than 50 employees to reduce their workforces or change the structure of their companies.

One bit of good news is the IRS ruled this past Monday that affordability does not extend to fulltime employees’ families. Under ACA, employers will have to offer insurance that is certified affordable only to employees. To be certifiable as affordable, the premium for each employee’s plan cannot exceed 9.5 percent of their total household income. If the insurance coverage doesn’t meet the affordability law, employees will be offered tax credits to purchase insurance on their own. Business owners will then have to pay whichever is less: $3,000 per employee that receives the credit or $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 workers.

Finally, WageWatch welcomes our newest employee, Debra Anundson, who joined us on January 1st as our new Manager of Compensation Analytics.  Debra was with Interstate Hotels & Resorts for 22+ years, where she served in many capacities in Compensation and Benefits at the corporate office, managing all facets of their compensation, health & welfare and retirement benefits.  She created salary structures for exempt and nonexempt positions in all divisions as well as the corporate headquarters.  You can read more about Debra in the press release.

WageWatch, Inc. is the leading compensation survey provider for the lodging and gaming industries with over 6,000 properties in our database participating in its PeerMark™ Wage survey. WageWatch also conducts compensation surveys the healthcare, staffing and non-profit industries. The PeerMark™ Wage Survey is the only Web-based custom survey tool that allows individual survey participants to select their competitive set for comparison purposes.