Initiative 124, approved by voters last year, gave certain Seattle hotel workers new rights related to assault and sexual harassment, injuries, workloads, medical care and changes in hotel ownership.
A King County Superior Court judge Friday threw out a lawsuit brought by hotel-owner groups seeking to undo hotel-worker protections approved by Seattle voters last year.
Judge John Erlick said Initiative 124 and the resulting city ordinance neither violate the federal and state constitutions nor conflict with existing laws.
Drawn up by the Unite Here! Local 8 union, I-124 gave certain Seattle hotel workers new rights related to assault and sexual harassment, injuries, workloads, medical care and changes in hotel ownership.
A spokeswoman for the union hailed the ruling and said she was glad the judge recognized that hotel workers are particularly vulnerable employees, as many are immigrant women.
Most Read Local Stories
- Coronavirus daily news updates, May 27: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state, and the world
- Half of newly diagnosed coronavirus cases in Washington are in people under 40
- Washington houses of worship allowed to hold services under Inslee's coronavirus guidance plan
- 'I'm hiding from the bank': How the bottom may be falling out of the coronavirus response
- Coronavirus daily news updates, May 28: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state, and the world
“Business concerns and guest convenience aside, what matters is their health and safety, and this ruling really backed that up,” said the spokeswoman, Abby Lawlor.
In a statement, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said his office was “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.”
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, Seattle Hotel Association and Washington Hospitality Association sued the city in December over I-124.
The groups said they were particularly concerned by a provision requiring hotels to keep lists of guests whom workers accuse of assault or harassment. In certain cases, hotels must bar the guests involved.
Other provisions require hotels to protect workers from chemical hazards and limit housekeepers to cleaning 5,000 square feet in a normal workday.
Hotels must retain workers during ownership transfers and large hotels must offer health-insurance help to some workers. The burden of proof lies with hotels when workers claim they have been retaliated against after exercising their I-124 rights.
In their lawsuit, the hotel groups said the ballot title for I-124 was incomplete and argued the provision regarding accused guests violated privacy and due-process rights.
They said I-124’s health and safety provisions were pre-empted by state law and objected to the initiative’s handling of retaliation claims.
Brian Crawford, a vice president for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said the plaintiffs will consider next steps, such as an appeal.
“Seattle hotels remain devoted to a safe, healthy work environment,” Jillian Henze, spokeswoman for the Seattle Hotel Association, said in a statement.
“Initiative 124 threatens that commitment, impeding the industry’s ability to manage and provide opportunities to its workforce, while violating the rights of our customers.”
Henze added, “The decision is troubling because one of the provisions, requiring hotels to blacklist guests, forces our industry to choose between protecting our guests or protecting our employees.”
In his ruling, Erlick said the hotel groups lacked standing to sue over that provision. The judge said some issues related to accused guests and their rights may be addressed by rules the city draws up to implement I-124.
And he said a challenge would be “more properly brought” by a guest actually barred, rather than by hotel groups before the fact.