City Attorney's Office

Judge Rules in Favor of City, Upholds Seattle Hotel Workers' Rights in Lawsuit

Initiative 124 will remain intact.

By Hayat Norimine June 9, 2017

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The Westin in Seattle, taken June 2006.

A King County Superior Court judge on Friday ruled in favor of the city in a lawsuit, brought by hospitality associations, that alleged Initiative 124—implementing new hotel workers' rights in the city—violated state law and the Constitutional rights of hotel guests.

Initiative 124, which passed in November with 76.6 percent of the city's voters in support, aimed to protect hotel housekeepers from assault and harassment and improve hotel workers' rights by adding a chapter to the Seattle municipal code. It requires that employers provide panic buttons to its housekeepers (who are largely women of color), maintain lists containing names of guests accused of assaulting or harassment its employees, and post signs about the protections. Other sections protect hotel workers from on-the-job injuries with restrictions on the amount of work and improved health care coverage, and protects workers from losing their jobs due to changes in hotel management. 

“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 released statement Friday.

Three associations that brought the lawsuit against the city in December—American Hotel & Lodging Association, Seattle Hotel Association, and Washington Hospitality Association—argued that the initiative covers more than a single subject that's expressed in the title, as required by initiatives; that maintaining a list of hotel guests accused of harassment violates the right to privacy and due process; that the health and safety requirements are preempted by the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act; and that it's not severable.

Judge John Erlick said the initiative doesn't violate any constitutional laws, wasn't preempted, and that the associations don't have the standing to challenge the guest registry requirement. 

"The initiative...is legislation popularly enacted by the voters of the City of Seattle to address serious and significant health, safety, and welfare issues of some of Seattle's most vulnerable employees, its hotel workers," Judge John Erlick wrote in his summary judgment. 

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