Why the hotel industry wants a guest worker program

This I got from Workforce Management Online, or www.workforce.com — no link available. The website says that “the lodging industry is particularly concerned about issues of liability, both pertaining to the verification of worker documentation and to the use of subcontractors, says Shawn McBurney, vice president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association in Washington, D.C.”

The 10,000-member trade and advocacy organization worries about of the accuracy of the Department of Homeland Security’s Basic Pilot Program, which is a database used for verifying the legal status of workers. Homeland Security’s database has an average error rate of 1.4%, McBurney says. This rate, however, could increase once more participants join the system, potentially exposing hospitality employers to inadvertently hiring undocumented workers, he explains.

I have blogged before that the error rate problem is actually much worse. One third of all positives (i.e. “the worker’s illegal”) are false – and hence the employer liability.

Another source of anxiety for the hospitality industry stems from proposed language in the House’s current version of the immigration reform bill that suggests employers could be liable for the actions of their subcontractors. Should this aspect of the bill come become law, it would virtually be a 180-degree departure from the current protocol in which subcontractors carry the responsibility of hiring decisions.

This could be a hard blow to the hospitality industry, where subcontracting is widely practiced to meet demand for large volumes of workers. Many of the 1.5 million workers in the hospitality industry were hired through subcontractors, allowing employers to save money, reduce paperwork and avoid the hassle, McBurney explains. Subcontracting can get quite convoluted because, oftentimes, subcontractors hire other subcontractors, muddying transparency and hindering accountability.