Hotel employee Diana Nufio filed a class action lawsuit today against the Irvine Hilton for allegedly violating the city’s recently adopted hotel worker protection ordinance that went into effect in December.

The lawsuit alleges that the hotel failed to comply with the ordinance by not providing functioning panic buttons, failed to implement daily room cleaning and failed to pay maids double for exceeding the limits set by the law.

“Hilton Irvine’s violations were knowing and intentional, and constitute unfair business practices which have deprived employees of their rights under California and local labor laws in order to reduce payroll costs and increase profits,” reads the lawsuit complaint provided by Nufio’s attorney.

It also alleges that the hotel failed to hire 24-hour security to respond to panic calls, failed to provide training for workers and did not post the required notice of the law for months in guest rooms and bathrooms.

Hilton Hotels did not respond to an email request for comment Thursday.

The lawsuit comes as hotel workers across Southern California, including at the Hilton in Irvine, overwhelmingly voted earlier this month to authorize a strike over pay – citing rising housing costs – amid contract negotiations.

[Read: Southern California Hotel Workers Authorize Strike]

Hotel employees represented by Unite Here Local 11 could walkout anytime this holiday weekend, according to a union official. 

Lauren Teukolsky, the lawyer representing Nufio, said in a Thursday phone interview that hotel workers are among the most exploited in Southern California and have fought hard to get these protections.

“It’s our understanding that there are several instances where panic buttons when pushed, they just don’t work,” she said.

“We want the Hilton to really start taking seriously its obligations to ensure the personal safety of its hotel workers.”

Last year, Irvine became the first city in Orange County to implement an ordinance backed by Union Here Local 11, a hospitality workers union, that aims to provide better safety and working conditions for housekeepers.

The decision was made after local housekeepers spoke out at city council meetings and told local media that they’re working in unsafe conditions and facing sexual harassment – including guests exposing their genitals and trying to grab the maids.

[Read: Housekeepers’ Hellish Hotel Horrors: Could A Proposed Irvine Ordinance Protect Maids?]

After the Irvine City Council passed the ordinance, Irvine hoteliers and the California Hotel and Lodging Association spent over half a million dollars supporting a voter referendum to overturn Irvine’s ordinance via a ballot referendum.

But they failed to gather enough signatures to put it to a citywide vote. 

Now workers at the Irvine Hilton like Nufio, the plaintiff in the case, say the hotel is applying for an exemption from the ordinance.

“I feel like Hilton does not think about us workers as people–they just think about money. But now, our hotel is asking the City for a waiver from the Ordinance, which is even more of an insult after we fought so hard for our City Council to pass these protections,” Nufio said in a Thursday news release.

Teukolsky said maids at the Hilton were given notice that the hotel is seeking an exemption and that they have reached out to the city for more information.

“We did a public records act request to the city of Irvine, but we have not yet received any information or documents in response to that request,” she said.

The lawsuit comes just two days after city council members in Anaheim – home to the Disneyland resort – voted to send a similar ordinance to the ballot in a $1.6 million special election in October.

That proposed ordinance, spearheaded by Unite Here, would also guarantee a $25 an hour minimum wage for hotel workers throughout Anaheim.

[Read: Anaheim Voters To Decide if Hotel Workers Get $25 Minimum Wage in October]

It also comes as workers at the Irvine Hilton and other hotels throughout Southern California could go on strike at any time amid contract negotiations, according to Maria Hernandez, a Unite Here spokeswoman.

“Contracts expire tomorrow, folks are ready to walk out at any point this 4th of July weekend,” Hernandez said in a Thursday text.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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