Westin Hotel workers hold up signs in support of housekeepers’ rights. Photo by Hannah Long-Higgins

Westin Hotel workers hold up signs in support of housekeepers’ rights. Photo by Hannah Long-Higgins

Labor Rights

The Office of Labor Standards Sets Plan for Implementation of the Hotel Worker Law

It has been more than a year since the law was approved by voters.

Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards (OLS) confirmed Wednesday that the department will begin the rule-making process for hotel worker law I-124 this month, after its implementation has remained in limbo for more than a year.

In November 2016, 77 percent of Seattle voters approved of the measure designed to protect hotel workers from sexual harassment and workplace hazards. Yet, a December 7, 2017 Seattle Weekly report revealed that key provisions of the ordinance still hadn’t gone into effect over a year later.

For instance, hotel workers on Westin Seattle’s night shift said that they hadn’t been equipped with a panic button. One night housekeeper, Ely Dar, said that the law’s provision limiting housekeepers to clean 5000 square feet per day hadn’t been followed during her shift.

Unite Here Local 8 organizers who helped spearhead the ordinance said OLS was responsible for not enforcing the rules yet. They added that the hotel industry’s lawsuit and recent appeal of the law also stymied its implementation.

In response, Stephanie Formas, a spokesperson for the Mayor, wrote in an email to Seattle Weekly that Durkan would “direct OLS to brief her on the status and plan for implementation by December 15.”

On Thursday, Director of Strategic Affairs at Local 8 Stefan Moritz told Seattle Weekly that the organization had a conversation about the ordinance with OLS at the end of December.

“We were informed by the Office of Labor Standards that rule-making is going to begin and we’re looking forward to this process,” Moritz said. “Seattle voters passed this law to protect hotel workers and effective rules will be essential to ensure that hotel workers are safe at work.”

OLS Communications Manager Cynthia Santana said in an email to Seattle Weekly that the Mayor is committed to implementing key provisions of I-124.

“The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) has planned a rule-making process to begin in January 2018. The process involves hearing from a range of stakeholders, including businesses, workers, and worker representatives, and allows for thorough development of key issues, including but not limited to specific requirements to protect hotel workers from sexual harassment, compensation of the cost for employee medical coverage, and the scope of OLS’s enforcement authority. As written by the Initiative’s drafters, which the City does not have the authority to change until November 30, 2018, the ordinance’s primary enforcement mechanism lies with the courts rather than OLS.OLS only has full enforcement authority where the Wage Theft ordinance is implicated,” Santana said.

The development follows a Wednesday post in The Stranger revealing that the wait time for OLS cases to be resolved has more than doubled in recent years. The Stranger report found that workers filing complaints about their employers’ violations of labor laws are waiting nearly a year for their cases to be closed.

Yet Santana says that OLS “will be working on gathering input on the changes necessary for full enforcement authority during the rulemaking process.”

She invites anyone interested in becoming involved in the rule-making process to contact OLS Policy Analyst Jeneé Jahn at jenee.jahn@seattle.gov.

mhellmann@seattleweekly.com

CORRECTION A subheading in an earlier version of this story indicated that the mayor’s office had planned on implementing the law by mid-December. It has been corrected to state that the mid-December target was for a briefing on the implementation plan.

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