|By Donna Goodison, Boston
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 10, 2010 -Hotel workers at the Langham Boston reportedly got a homework assignment this week that was reminiscent of a classic grammar school punishment.
Some 30 food and beverage workers at the luxury hotel were instructed to do the equivalent of writing lines after an audit by Leading Hotels of the World found their department lax in meeting its service standards, according to one of the workers.
The employees were handed 12 pages of food and beverage standards last Tuesday and instructed to make five handwritten copies of them by yesterday, said the worker, who didn't want his name used for fear of losing his job.
"When I was in third grade, the teacher made you go to the board and, much like Bart Simpson, write something like, 'I will not talk out in class,' " the worker said yesterday. "Everybody thinks it's ridiculous. I would say nobody's completed the whole thing."
The Langham employee said he debated hand-copying the standards, but decided against it.
"There's no way they can make me do it at home and not pay me for it," he said. "We're hourly employees, not salaried employees, and hourly means you don't take your work home with you."
Langham general manager Serge Denis said he was not aware that such an incident took place.
"I'm not saying it didn't happen," he said. "I'm saying that whatever we do here in terms of training our people is the norm. We don't do anything different than any other hotel."
As a member of Leading Hotels of the World, the Langham undergoes inspections four times a year that audit how it adheres to 1,000-plus standards. Each department has its own standards to follow, beginning with how guests are greeted by doormen and ending with the checkout process.
"The last audit we had, we scored pretty well," Denis said. "But some departments of the hotel had lower scores than the previous one."
When a department doesn't meet the minimum score, Denis said, management puts an action plan into place. "We need to make sure each of our staff is properly trained, and part of that is to review the standards so the staff knows what they are," he said.
Russ Davis, executive director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, said the alleged incident smacked of "just another example of an arrogant employer who thinks that the current economic situation means that they can treat their employees with disrespect, aside from it being illegal to ask people to do this on their own time."
"But even if they were paying people, trying to humiliate employees is not how you get better service at a hotel," said Davis, whose Boston-based group advocates for workers' rights. "I hope this is a one-time aberration and not an indication of the employment policies of the Langham."
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