Hospitality associations are suing Seattle over new rights for hotel workers that the city’s voters approved last month with Initiative 124. The groups object to a provision requiring hotels to keep lists of guests whom workers accuse of sexual assault or harassment.
Hospitality associations are suing Seattle over new rights for hotel workers and new requirements for hotels that the city’s voters approved last month with Initiative 124.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, Washington Hospitality Association and Seattle Hotel Association say I-124 provisions duplicate or clash with existing federal and state laws.
The groups are particularly alarmed by the provision requiring hotels to keep lists of guests whom workers accuse of sexual assault or harassment.
“The hotel is required to place the guest’s name on a list, whether or not the employee is willing to sign a sworn statement, make a police report or offer any supporting evidence,” says a complaint filed Monday in King County Superior Court.
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The names of accused guests must be shared with the city and, if the guests return, with other hotel workers. When the accusing worker signs a statement, the accused guests must be denied lodging for three years “without being told why,” says the lawsuit, which seeks a permanent injunction to prevent Seattle from enacting I-124.
“The blacklist provision creates a significant risk that people will be mistakenly or wrongfully accused without any opportunity to respond or clear their names,” it says.
It says the list provision violates guests’ rights to privacy and due process.
The Unite Here! Local 8 hospitality-workers union wrote and worked to pass I-124, arguing it would protect a workforce of mostly immigrant women. Many community and labor organizations endorsed the ballot measure, which won 77 percent of the vote.
“In challenging the initiative post-passage, local hotels are demonstrating a clear disregard for hotel employees, Seattle voters, and Seattle values,” said Rebecca Saldaña, who campaigned for I-124 as executive director of the nonprofit advocacy organization Puget Sound Sage and who was recently appointed to the state Senate.
Besides the list provision, I-124 requires that hotels protect workers from chemical hazards and limits housekeepers to cleaning 5,000 square feet in a normal workday.
The measure requires that hotels retain workers during ownership transfers and that large hotels offer health-insurance help to certain workers. It puts the burden of proof on hotels when workers claim retaliation for exercising their rights under I-124.
The lodging groups’ suit says I-124 violated Seattle law by combining unrelated subjects into one ballot measure. It says the state, not the city, regulates workplace safety. And it says the retaliation provision is contrary to federal and state law.
The suit claims I-124 will cause economic injury to city hotels and that the hotels “stand in the shoes” of their guests who will be injured by the list requirement.
In response, Unite Here! Local 8 President Erik Van Rossum said, “We in the Seattle community stand in the shoes of hotel housekeepers.”
Seattle has been sued by business groups on multiple occasions in recent years.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear a challenge to the city’s $15-an-hour minimum-wage ordinance. Lower court rulings had already sided with the city.
In August, a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit against Seattle’s new ordinance giving Uber and taxi drivers the ability to unionize, calling the suit premature.