Beverly Hilton furloughs 580 workers amid sharp decline in business

The Beverly Hilton has furloughed 580 workers since mid-March as the upscale hotel grapples with a sharp downturn in travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In three notices sent to the state Employment Development Department, parent company Hilton Hotel Employer LLC said conditions were progressively worsening.

In the initial Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice sent April 6, Human Resources Director Bernice Correa said 554 employees had been placed on temporary, unpaid furloughs, effective March 19.

“These furloughs will continue indefinitely, but are intended to be temporary and last less than six months,” she said.

Correa attributed the action to “sudden effects of the natural disaster and physical calamity that is the coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19.”

A second April 16 notice boosted the number of furloughs to 575, and a third April 22 notice upped it to 580. Workers were told they may be eligible for unemployment insurance and other benefits. They have been directed to labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019.

The EDD notices didn’t identify which jobs are affected, but the list likely includes front-desk workers, housekeepers, restaurant servers, cooks, security officers and a variety of other positions.

Scores of businesses have implemented furloughs and later increased the count as they look to assess impacts from the health crisis. Initial projections often underestimate the severity of the problem as well as the tenacity of COVID-19, which continues to ramp up in regions throughout the U.S.

Business closures and reduced services have put many employees out of work. More than 7 million California workers filed initial claims for unemployment from the week ending March 14 through the week ending July 25.

In a July 31 email, Correa said the Beverly Hilton layoffs remain in effect.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on travel and the suspension of operations, The Beverly Hilton has had to extend the furloughs of our team members,” she said.

Many services not available

The Beverly Hilton website lists 14 services that are currently not available because of coronavirus-related concerns. The list includes concierge services, the Bellezza Salon, the CIRCA 55 Restaurant and Bar, Lobby Lounge with Starbucks Coffee, dry cleaning and laundry services, express checkout and the Aqua Star Pool, among other amenities.

Opened in 1955, the Beverly Hilton has 566 rooms, including 101 suites with panoramic city views and indoor-outdoor living spaces, and nine private luxury suites.

California hotels were shut down in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, although a few remained open to serve first responders and some of the state’s homeless population.

Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the go-ahead for hotels to reopen June 12 providing they had adequate safety protocols in place.

Safety concerns

And there’s a flip-side to the issue.

Earlier this month, hospitality workers throughout Los Angeles County called for a pause in the reopening of hotels to tourists as COVID-19 cases continued to surge in California. Employees held protests at hotels in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Pasadena, saying they don’t want to be forced to return to work if conditions aren’t safe.

They’re asking for continued healthcare coverage through the pandemic and want assurances that hotels are complying with safety protocols to protect guests and employees. They’re also demanding that hotels have a system in place to trace COVID-19 positive employees and guests.

The Hotel Association of Los Angeles, which represents more than area 1,300 hotels, said it has stringent COVID-19 safety protocols in place to keep workers and guests safe.

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