Health Law & Business News

Seattle Law to Protect Hotel Employees Overturned

Dec. 26, 2018, 4:16 PM

A Seattle law intended to increase low-wage hotel workers’ health care benefits and mandate additional safety and job protections is dead, at least for now.

More than 75 percent of Seattle voters approved Municipal Code ch.14.25 in November.

The law, divided into seven parts, includes a provision requiring hotels with 100 or more guest rooms to provide health-care subsidies to low-wage employees or provide health-care coverage equal to at least a gold-level policy on the Washington Health Care Benefit Exchange.

But the law violates the single-subject rules embedded in the state constitution and the city’s charter, the Washington Court of Appeals said Dec. 24, striking it down.

The rules prohibit state and local lawmakers from enacting laws that have more than one subject.

The law also required hotels to protect employees from on-the-job injuries, including violent assault and sexual harassment by guests. It granted job security protections to workers during ownership changes.

The law prohibited hotels from interfering with worker rights as detailed in the initiative, and created a private enforcement action for violations.

But the law’s numerous provisions didn’t pass the single-subject test because they weren’t related or “germane” enough to each other, the court said. They were so lacking in “rational unity” that it was impossible to say if any single part would have passed if voted on separately, it said.

The court sent the case back to the trial court with instructions to enter summary judgment for the hotel associations that challenged the law.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Seattle Hotel Association, and the Washington Hospitality Association challenged the law.

Seattle and two intervening organizations, UNITE HERE! Local 8 and Seattle Protects Women, defended the law’s validity.

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP represented the associations. The Seattle City Attorney’s Office represented the city. Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lav and Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch PC represented the intervenors.

The case is Am. Hotel & Lodging Ass’n v. City of Seattle, 2018 BL 476884, Wash. Ct. App., Div. 1, No. 77918-4-I, 12/24/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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