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Is it illegal for an employer to require male & female employees to share hotels on business trips?

Santa Ana, CA |

We are not offered the option of having our own hotel room, and who we share with is random depending who we go on business trips with. It could be same-sex, but it could also be male with female.

Can you site the labor code this violates?

Thanks.

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

I don't believe there is a specific code section that prohibits employers from requiring employees of the opposite sex from sharing a hotel room, although it would seem like a very bad idea because it invites trouble, especially if it is a small room which must be shared. It might be different it the co-workers shared a suite with separate bedrooms.

If you feel uncomfortable with having to share a room with someone of the opposite sex, I think it would be appropriate to voice an objection, once you become aware of the conditions and ask for a separate room. A responsible employer should respond appropriately and make arrangements for separate rooms. If they refuse to do so, perhaps you can arrange for your own accommodations and submit an invoice for reimbursement. Employers are required to reimburse employees for reasonably incurred business expenses. If they refuse to do so because they required you to sleep in the same room as someone of the opposite sex, see an employment law attorney for advise on how to best approach the situation.

They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.

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Posted

I concur with Mr. Kirschbaum's advice but would go the next steps further.

In my view, no employee should be required to share sleeping quarters with any other employee, same gender or not. And no employer should be unwise or imprudent enough to impose that requirement on employees. None of the presumptions that underlie any policy of employee sharing with same sex but not the opposite gender can withstand logical scrutiny and analysis. In fact, those assumptions and policies are, in my judgment, legally indefensible. So, as I analyze it, the law requires employee sharing of sleeping quarters or not without regard to gender or sexual orientation. But that is just the mid-step of the analysis.

Sleep is a physiologically and psychologically vulnerable state that raises any number of issues of potential violation of personal safety and privacy standards.

I will acknowledge straight-forwardly that there is not presently any law on this specific issue, but I have no doubt that there will be. In the meantime, many attorneys who counsel employers have simply evolved to advising their employer clients that every employee needs private sleeping quarters. A single incident (or employee claim of an incident) based on the failure to provide privacy and personal safety during sleep will wipe out any employer savings in the cost of the travel accommodations -- by a factor of hundreds.

My suggestion is that the employees collectively retain a lawyer to constructively approach the employer on this issue. You need a real diplomat -- not a warrior. Some of the employees who are subject to this policy may add significant ballast to the issue by having sleep-related disabilities: apnea, insomnia, sleep-walking, limb movement disorders, talking and yelling in the sleep, hyper-snoring, etc. If the employees want to win this one, they can. Mr. Kirschbaum would be a stellar choice of counsel to work peaceably with the employer to change this practice.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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1 comment

Michael Robert Kirschbaum

Michael Robert Kirschbaum

Posted

Thank you Christine. You have given the asker a far better analysis of this issue than I did and I fully agree with you.

Posted

If I were counsel for this employer I would be hesitant to approve this policy, specifically the requirement of opposite sex employees being required to share rooms. I feel this could easily lead to a harassment case of which the employer would rebutting the fact that they knew or should have known that harassment was likely to happen.

Disclaimer: Please note, this should not be construed as legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. There are statutes of limitation involved in this issue and if you believe you have suffered a legal wrong you should consult an attorney before those statutes expire.

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Posted

(you misspelled "site" above. it should be "cite." ) There may or may not be a LC violation but the practice could easily give rise to claims of discrimination and harassment under FEHA and therefore, a bad business practice.
If a female employee decides that she will not share a room with a male co-worker and ends up paying for her own room, if the employer refuses the expense based on the above policy, then there could be a LC claim for unreimbursed business expenses.

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