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A Big Win for the "Little Guy"

It’s a 21st-Century David and Goliath story, with attorney David Goldstein and his client, Maribel Duarte, a hotel worker, going up against a big corporation—Embassy Suites in Irvine...and winning.

Duarte, a housekeeper at the hotel for 16 years, injured her neck, arms and legs from the repetitive motion of cleaning hotel rooms. Embassy Suites and its Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier denied her claim, stating that her injuries were not work related.

Goldstein, a partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), fought back. “Maribel saw an orthopedic specialist who determined that her occupational duties were sufficient to prove hers was an industrial injury,” he explains.

“We proceeded to hearing at which time the employer’s attorneys conceded that the injury was work related and settled the case for the full value of the permanent disability, temporary disability and medical care as indicated by the treating physician.”

Duarte was awarded a $70,000 settlement. In addition, the company paid her medical bills, which were more than $25, 000, and reimbursed the state Employment Development Department $6,100 (Duarte received state disability because her employer denied temporary disability).

“This victory is important not only to my client, but also to all the ‘little people’ who stand up to big corporations who think they can barrel over workers. Hotel housekeepers do back-breaking work and are often taken advantage of by these hotel conglomerates that will deny their right to medical care and fair compensation for injuries suffered on the job.”

The job of hotel housekeepers negatively and painfully impacts their shoulders, wrists, hands, fingers, backs, knees, legs and feet. This is precisely why in 2011 California Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 432, calling for hotels to use fitted sheets that require less lifting of mattresses than traditional flat sheets. It also called for hotels to use mops and long-handled tools so that housekeepers won’t have to stoop or kneel to scrub bathrooms and floors.  

Goldstein and GEK—through their affiliation with the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association—helped make this bill a reality. The introduction of SB 432 raised awareness of the injury risk to housekeepers and has led to discussion to create safety guidelines to prevent such injuries.

“Maribel’s case is a prime example of why it is so important to have skilled legal representation to ensure that appropriate and accurate Workers’ Compensation benefits are provided when a worker is legitimately injured on the job. Further, it is often very difficult for an unrepresented worker to successfully prevail against a corporate system with its own lawyers, adjusters and doctors.

“We fought the good fight against the giant hotel industry and we won. I hope this case sets a precedent that you don’t fool with hotel workers.”

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