Workers and community allies rallied outside the trendy Freehand Los Angeles, some wearing poop costumes, hazmat suits and carrying plungers, mops, and brushes. The rally comes after Jose Santamaria, a Freehand Hotel worker, filed a Cal/OSHA complaint this week alleging multiple sewage overflows over the past nine months in the Private Dining Room of the downtown L.A Hot spot.
In the complaint, Jose Santamaria, alleged that on multiple occasions since October 2018, a basement cistern or septic tank containing sewage overflowed into the hotel’s Private Dining Room, causing the floor to become submerged in sewage water containing visible toilet paper and human excrement. The worker alleges that Freehand management ordered employees to clean the sewage water without protective equipment on the first occasions when it occurred and further alleges that employees have not received any safety training on this job assignment.
Jose Santamaria attests that he was one of the workers required to clean up sewage when the septic tank overflowed, Jose Santamaria attests that he was one of the workers required to clean up sewage when the septic tank overflowed. “I had to stand in sewage liquid up to five inches deep in my regular shoes, my feet and lower legs coming into direct contact with sewage,” he said in the complaint.
During a second sewage leak into the Private Dining Room in about January, “I attempted to protect myself by wrapping my feet and legs with plastic garbage bags, but sewage liquid still entered my shoes and pants and came in direct contact with my skin,” stated Santamaria.
“During the second incident, sewage splattered onto my face and shirt while I helped shut the lid of the septic tank,” added Santamaria.
Cal/OSHA is empowered to inspect properties and conduct interviews before ordering remedies, which may include additional worker training, repairs, or fines.
Based on Santamaria’s allegations, UNITE HERE Local 11 also filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, requesting an investigation into whether the hotel is in compliance with state and local laws.
The Freehand Los Angeles is owned in part by Alliance Bernstein U.S. Real Estate Partners Fund II, and is operated by Sydell Group.