PRESS RELEASE: Hilton Metrotown Loses Arbitration Over Group Severance Exemption; Fired Hotel Workers Entitled to Greater Payouts
Vancouver, BC — Workers terminated from Hilton Metrotown are now entitled to receive greater severance payouts after the hotel lost a key arbitration that has implications for the broader hotel industry. Hilton Metrotown terminated 97 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and sought an exemption to the Employment Standards Act to avoid larger severance payouts under group termination rules. The arbitrator has ruled against the hotel and found they are not exempt.
Hilton Metrotown terminated the workers, the majority of them women and racialized, in recent weeks before locking-out its remaining staff on April 16. The hotel applied for an exemption from severance provisions under section 65 of the Employment Standards Act, which allows for exemptions due to the “impossibility” of performing employment contracts due to unforeseen events and circumstances. The arbitrator rejected their appeal on the grounds that the hotel is still operating and employing people, which ultimately proves that it is not impossible for Hilton Metrotown to comply with their obligations to perform employment contracts.
The Union estimates the hotel may owe workers hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional severance pay. This decision has implications for the hospitality industry—and beyond—as other employers, like Pan Pacific Vancouver and Four Points Sheraton Vancouver Airport, have tried to use COVID-19 as an excuse to skirt their severance obligations to workers.
Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40: “Hilton Metrotown will not get away with using the pandemic to cheat workers out of their full severance payments. This decision sends a strong warning to other hotels: do not use COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid your severance liabilities. If you plan to terminate your long-term workers, be prepared to pay workers what they are owed.”
For additional information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, firstname.lastname@example.org, Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, email@example.com
UNITE HERE Local 40 is the hospitality workers’ union and represents members in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.