Add more fuel to the hotel fire.


Four hotel workers at the Westin Century Plaza Hotel & Spa and the St. Regis Los Angeles have filed a $10 million lawsuit against operator Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc. for failing to provide them meal and rest breaks.


The suit, a potential class action of 1,000 employees who have worked at the hotels since September 2000, was filed in September amid ongoing negotiations between the hotels and Unite HERE, which represents hotel workers.


The suit is not related to the labor negotiations, said Puja Batra, an attorney at Bahan & Associates, the Pasadena law firm representing the four.


"The investigation has been going on for many, many months on this case," she said. "People were really being worked too hard. There was no one available to relieve them. They had a certain amount of things they had to get done, so they had to work the entire shift."


Under California's Labor Codes and wage laws, workers who are entitled to overtime pay must receive a 30-minute meal period and two 10-minute rest periods if they work an eight-hour shift. Employees deprived of those breaks are entitled to at least one hour of regular pay.


Batra estimates the suit, which is seeking class certification in L.A. Superior Court, could reach $10 million in damages. The lead plaintiff is Edgar Bonilla, a room service cook who began working at Century Plaza in 1998.


Starwood spokeswoman Nadeen Iyala declined to comment on pending litigation.


Walking in WeHo


The City of West Hollywood is in trial this month against a Sherman Oaks resident who claims he was struck by a car and suffered brain injuries because of the city's negligence in maintaining proper lighting and markings at one of its crosswalks.


Eli Sayers says a remote sensor lighting system designed to alert motorists of the crosswalk was not operating or malfunctioning when he crossed Sunset Boulevard near Alta Loma Road on April 24, 2001. Also, trees and shrubs blocked the driver's view of the crosswalk signs.


Sayers, who claims city officials knew of the problems, suffered permanent injuries that have made him unable to work, the complaint says. He is seeking general damages and past and future medical expenses.


Mark Quigley, a partner at Greene Broillet Panish & Wheeler LLP representing Sayers, did not return calls. Scott Haith, an attorney of counsel at Robertson & Vick LLP representing the city, did not return calls.


Printing Trouble


The Southern California Allied Printing Trades Council, a coalition of union locals representing employees at 72 Southern California printing shops, is embroiled in a dispute with one of its locals.


The council, which is responsible for doling out the Allied Printing Trades label that adorns most materials printed at union shops, alleges in an amended complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court that Local 9400 of the Communications Workers of America bought a printing company and used the company, Union Bug Inc. and another nearby printing shop to distribute political literature and newsletters bearing the label without authorization.


It has also claimed that Howard Dudley, its former secretary-treasurer, breached his duties with the council by approving labels for Union Bug.


"This is quite simply an attempt to stake a simple dispute between a union member, Mr. Dudley, and his labor organization, the Southern California Allied Printing Trades Council, and transform it into a case with the desire of finding a pot of gold , treble damages and attorneys' fees," said Steven Holguin, a partner at Holguin & Garfield PLC representing Dudley.


Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com .

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