Hotel Housekeepers Say New Cleaning Protocols Put Their Jobs at Risk

Ella Castle

Ms. Petit-Homme, who has worked at the hotel for 22 years, said she is one of a few housekeepers back at work and her managers said there aren’t enough guests to bring in more. She was told the cleaning of rooms at checkout is meant to keep her and guests […]

Ms. Petit-Homme, who has worked at the hotel for 22 years, said she is one of a few housekeepers back at work and her managers said there aren’t enough guests to bring in more. She was told the cleaning of rooms at checkout is meant to keep her and guests safe. But she believes that the hotel is busy enough that more housekeepers should be brought back.

“They are still busy,” Ms. Petit-Homme said. “They don’t have no respect for the housekeeping. We work very hard in the housekeeping and now we do more work in the same time and it’s hard.”

Josh Herman, vice president of marketing and public relations at the Fontainebleau, said the hotel’s focus is on returning to former occupancy levels, enabling it to re-employ as many of its workers as possible. He added that since reopening the hotel has been following A.H.L.A. guidance and has received positive feedback from guests.

“While the enhanced cleaning protocols are more costly to execute, both in supplies and labor, the health and safety of our guests and team members are always our highest priority,” he said. “We continue to work closely with our housekeeping team in adjusting schedules to accommodate for these new requirements.”

Ms. Petit-Homme and others said that the current fight is just the latest skirmish in a more-than-decade-long battle between hotels and employees. Companies, housekeepers say, want to save money, so they’ve created programs that discourage guests from requesting housekeeping, but have framed them as environmental initiatives and offered guests rewards points for skipping cleanings. The pandemic, as they see it, has given these companies an opportunity to trim cleaning even more — and cut their costs.

Hotel owners and investors say they simply cannot afford to have all their housekeepers back at work full time, and measures like checkout-only cleaning are meant to keep everyone safe. They say it’s also what guests want.

Frank Lavey, senior vice president of global operations at Hyatt, said in an email that guests “are returning to Hyatt hotels with new expectations around cleanliness, which includes limiting potential contact points, especially within the guest room.”

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