When California’s elected officials come back from their month-long recess they face a mountain of proposed legislation (almost 900 bills are lined up and waiting), including a new law (SB432) that would require hotels to eliminate flat sheets. Not having fitted sheets on hotel beds would now be a crime in California. This is not a joke. . .

Californias Fitted Sheet Law   Nanny State Madness?

California, the state trying to deal with a massive $26 BILLION dollar debt, is considering a law that some hospitality industry experts claim would add an estimated $15 to $30 million dollars in costs to an already hurting hotel industry. The low-end estimate of fifteen million is the projected cost to purchase new fitted sheets for the 550,000 hotel beds in the state. Of course the hospitality industry is claiming that these added costs will hurt their business and put jobs at risk.

Californias Fitted Sheet Law   Nanny State Madness?

The fitted-sheet bill is the brainchild of State Senator Kevin De Leon (a Democrat from Los Angeles), whose mother suffered back pains while working as a hotel maid. Kevin has been quoted as saying this was “an issue close to my heart.” It is also a bill that has the support of Big Labor. Sen. De Leon’s bill passed through the State Senate in June, but not before some spirited debate, including a statement from one of the two dissenters, State Senator Sam Blakeslee;

“We are now going to make it a crime in California not to use a fitted sheet? Really?”

Californias Fitted Sheet Law   Nanny State Madness?

If the law passes, who will be assigned to enforce it? Will California be the first state in the union to have “Mattress Police” checking for fitted sheets? Is this really a good use of law enforcement manpower?

There does seem to be a problem as a significant number of workplace injury claims have been filed by housekeeping employees, the LA Times reports:

More than 7,400 housekeepers working in California hotels have filed workers’ compensation claims for injuries they say they suffered last year, including 883 who said they hurt their backs, according to the state Industrial Relations Department.

Just over 10% of the claims filed are related to back injuries, however the reports do not specifically state if the injuries were mattress related or suffered in some other situation.

Media outlets all across the country have picked up this story. Indianapolis’ Fox 59 reports that hotel workers have a higher injury rate

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that hotel workers have markedly higher injury rates than other service industry workers on average: 5 injuries per 100 workers, while the average for all service industries is about 3.4 injuries per 100 workers. A 2009 report in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that housekeepers have higher (7.87 per 100) injury rates than other hotel workers, including banquet servers (2.82 per 100), dishwashers (5.97 per 100) and cooks (5.99 per 100).

The second part of the bill has a new requirement that actually appears to make sense:

(2) The use of long-handled tools such as mops or similar devices
in order to eliminate the practice by housekeepers of working in a
stooped, kneeling, or squatting position in order to clean bathroom
floors, walls, tubs, toilets, and other bathroom surfaces.

The statistical breakdown on hotel worker injuries did not differentiate between housekeeper injuries suffered while changing sheets or scrubbing bathrooms, so it is difficult to ascertain which of the problems posted in SB 432 would be most effectively addressed by passing the new law.

The question still remains – Are fitted sheets really the most important issue facing California? If the answer to that question is yes, I offer a compromise solution – something called “The Sheet Keeper.”

H/T – The Los Angeles Times -