Jenny Wu, a hotel worker and Unite Here Local 8 member in Seattle. Photo by Hannah Long-Higgins

Judge Upholds Seattle’s Hotel Worker Law

In December, three hotel associations sued over I-124. A ruling released Friday keeps it intact.

King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick issued a ruling Friday that entirely upholds and affirms the Seattle Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative, a new law that Seattle voters approved in November. Initiative 124 was designed to protect hotel workers against workplace injury and sexual harassment, and includes other provisions such as a health care stipend for low-income workers and job protection if a hotel is sold to a new owner.

In December, a trio of hospitality industry associations, incuding the Seattle Hotel Association, sued the city over the law. During a late-March hearing on the case, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued against it for two main reasons. One: It misled voters by carrying too many disparate pieces of legislation under one roof. Two: It established what hotel-industry plaintiffs are calling a “blacklist” by requiring hotels to keep ongoing lists of guests whom their workers accuse of sexual harassment or assault. This so-called blacklist unequivocally violates the due process and privacy rights of hotel guests, the plantiffs argued.

If Judge Erlick had agreed with them, that part of the law could have been severed, with the rest of the law remaining intact. But on Friday, he ruled that the hotel associations do not have legal standing to file suit on behalf of a potential violation of a hotel guest’s due process or privacy rights because, among other reasons, there are no guests so far who have been so damaged. “Without knowing how many, if any, guests will be on this list or even how many potential guests will be excluded from Seattle hotels each year, the threatened injury is not immediate, concrete, or specific enough to satisfy this prong” of the complaint, he wrote.

Erlick also ruled that the law does not violate the Seattle City Charter’s “single-subject rule” for ballot initiatives because “all of the provisions are rationally related to the single subject of health, safety, and labor conditions for hotel employees.”

“The City Attorney’s Office is proud to defend the voters’ choice to protect hotel workers and is very pleased with the court’s well-reasoned and thorough opinion upholding the will of the voters,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a press release. “The court acknowledged that hotel workers were ‘some of Seattle’s most vulnerable employees,’ and the voters’ decision to protect these workers was consistent with both the federal and state constitutions.”

Abby Lawlor, a staffer with the union Unite Here Local 8 who led the campaign for I-124, says she and her colleagues are “really excited” about the ruling. “It’s a huge victory for hotel workers and all of the voters who voted for the initiative back in November,” she says. “I think it was clear in the judge’s decision that he agreed that this was a very vulnerable group of workers and that these were necessary protections—and the importance of that overcame any of the industry’s objections about the impact that might have on businesses and on guests. The message that prioritizing the health and safety of these workers was important was really good to hear from the court today.”

In a statement, the Seattle Hotel Association did not confirm or deny that it would appeal the decision. “We’ll continue to evaluate our options,” the statement reads. “We know that working together is a more effective means to address the issues put forth in this initiative. In the future, hoteliers look forward to having a seat at the table before initiatives impacting our industry are designed and passed. With a spirit of collaboration, we’ll continue to focus on our commitment to fostering a safe and vibrant environment in Seattle for our employees and guests.”

sbernard@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Seattle and King County Officials Want a Safe Injection Van

The mobile project—an alternative to permanent sites—still doesn’t have a defined timeline.

Western Washington Could See More Wildfires This Year

Lots of grass and warmer weather could make for worsening fire seasons.

An autopsy found that Tommy Le was shot twice in the back during an fatal encounter with a King County sheriff’s deputy. Photo courtesy Career Link
New Report Calls for Increased Transparency From King County Sheriff’s Office

The fatal shooting of Tommy Le served as a case study for researchers.

Charles Pillon sits inside one of the several buses on Iron Mountain. Photo by Caean Couto
The Last Days of Iron Mountain?

After battling King County government for decades, Charles Pillon may have finally lost the fight over his illegal 10-acre junkyard.

The public files into the City Council Chambers to voice their opinions prior to the vote to repeal the head tax. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Head Tax Repealed By Seattle City Council

After pressure from big businesses, city leaders cave on their plan to fund homeless services.

A scene from the 2017 Women’s March Seattle. Photo by Richard Ha/Flickr
County Sexual Harassment Policies Could Be Overhauled

One King County councilmember says male-dominated departments have “workplace culture issues.”

The Firs Homeowners Association celebrate outside of the Maleng Regional Justice Center after a ruling that buys them more time in their homes on June 7, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
SeaTac Mobile Home Owners Granted Stay From Eviction

The ruling allows about 200 residents more time in their homes, as they attempt to acquire the property.

Most Read