Employees of a luxury Beverly Hills hotel have filed a complaint claiming management has failed to provide safety equipment for them to deal with cleaning medical waste often left behind by guests staying while receiving treatment at a nearby hospital, leaving them vulnerable.
Several of the employees of the Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills said the safety issues have existed for years and they can no longer stay silent.
They said management does show a safety video every year that explains how to properly handle and dispose of bloody linens and used needles, but that the hotel does not provide the safety equipment shown in the video.
The hotel is located across the street from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which makes it an ideal location for patients recovering from surgery or receiving long-term treatment, but hotel employees say cleaning the rooms of those guests puts them at risk.
They said they did try voicing their concerns to the hotel’s general manager Monday, but he declined to speak with them.
Video shot by hotel employees shows the general manager walking away from employees who ambushed him in the hotel’s kitchen.
In a statement to NBC4, the hotel said, "At Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills we have rigorous policies and procedures for ensuring the health and safety of our employees, guests and visitors. We have not received any notification about an OSHA complaint and if such is received we intend to disprove any such charge."
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"It needs to be talked about, the company is not providing any safety for us," said employee Edelmire Beltran.
Beltran has worked in room service at the Sofitel for 14 years. She said during that time, she’s been exposed to hazardous waste left on room service trays.
“I have seen blood, I have seen needles, I have seen bandages with blood,” she said.
She’s not alone.
“The blood, the needles, sometimes the toilet is very, very dirty,” said Myrna Saavedra, also an employee.
Saavedra has worked in housekeeping for eight years and worries about picking up used needles with her bare hands.
“If I cut my finger, then maybe I have blood to my finger,” she said.
That’s exactly what happened to housekeeper Alta Garcia. She said her finger wouldn’t stop bleeding when she pricked herself with a used needle while cleaning a room.
Her colleague translated what happened next from Spanish:
“There was a coworker who came by, got the Windex spray and put it on her finger.”
After spraying the wound with Windex, Garcia continued her shift. At the end of the day, she reported the incident to her supervisor, but said her concerns were dismissed.
She and others said the hotel only provides large, reusable rubber gloves for cleaning the bathrooms. They say those gloves are too thick to pick up small items, leaving them no choice but to use their bare hands to handle bloody sheets and other waste.
They also claim there are no containers that are designed to properly dispose of used needles and syringes, so housekeeping staff puts them in empty water bottles to avoid others getting pricked.
“That’s why I’m here to speak out, I want this to stop. I want the company to provide better opportunities to work in a better environment. Just the safety materials, that’s all we’re asking for,” Eldimira Beltran said.
Employees filed a complaint with Cal/OSHA Tuesday, asking for an inspection, proper training and safety equipment, but they also said they’re worried that putting their names on the complaint and publicly speaking out may jeopardize their jobs.
“I’m very scared," Mytna Saavedra said. "When the boss sees the news, I don’t know what (he's going to) do.