Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative - SMC 14.25

Update On Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative: An Industry Group Has Filed A Lawsuit To Stop Part 3 Of The Law

On August 14, 2018, the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) filed a complaint in federal district court in Seattle challenging Part 3 of the Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative. Part 3 requires large hotel employers to pay additional compensation to its low-income employees to improve their access to medical care. In its lawsuit, ERIC alleges that federal law (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) preempts this section. The City of Seattle plans to file a motion to dismiss within the next several weeks.

The City of Seattle and ERIC agreed to a temporary and limited stay of the City's enforcement of Part 3 of the law until no later than January 1, 2019 with the hope that the court will issue an early ruling on the merits of ERIC's lawsuit.

It is important to remember that the law itself and the regulations issued by the City remain in full force and effect, and all covered employers remain obligated to comply. The agreed upon stay of enforcement is narrow and means only that the City (by the Office of Labor Standards) will take no immediate action on complaints received, which will be held in temporary abeyance for a few months pending a court ruling. The temporary stay does not affect an individual complainant's right to file a private lawsuit.

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Key Requirements

The Hotel Employees Health & Safety Initiative provides protections for the health and safety of hotel employees working in Seattle. The Initiative applies to hotels of 60 or more guest rooms, with additional provisions applying to large hotels of 100 or more guest rooms. The following are key requirements of the ordinance:

  • A hotel employer must provide a panic button to each hotel employee assigned to work in a guest room without other employees present.
  • A hotel employer must compile and maintain a list of all guests accused of committing an act of violence toward an employee for five years from the date of the accusation. When the report is of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or harassment and is supported by a sworn statement or other evidence, a hotel employer must decline service to the guest for three years.
  • Guest room doors must have a sign that advertises that "The Law Protects Hotel Housekeepers and Other Employees from Violent Assault and Sexual Harassment (SMC 14.25)," and that employees are provided with panic buttons.
  • Hotel employees who inform employers of an act of guest violence can transfer to different floor or work area (upon request) and be given paid time to contact the police and a counselor.
  • Hotel employers must adopt workplace safety standards and safeguards, including those related to chemical hazard and hazard communications, that are at least equal to those required by the Washington State Industrial Health and Safety Act.    
  • Housekeeping services employees at large hotels can only be required to clean a maximum of 5,000 square feet of guest rooms in an 8 hour day. Employees may consent to clean additional square feet after being informed of the size of the assignment. An employee who cleans additional square feet must be paid 1.5 times their regular pay for all cleaning performed that day. The maximum square footage is proportionally reduced based on the number of hours spent cleaning guest rooms that day and on the number of strenuous room cleanings performed. 
  • Large hotel employers must provide additional compensation reflective of the cost of medical care to low-income hotel employees unless the employee pays no more than 5% of their monthly gross taxable earnings toward an employer-sponsored gold-level insurance premium for themselves or any enrolled family member.
  • For the first six months following a change in hotel ownership, the new owner must first hire employees who worked for the previous employer before hiring employees who did not work for the old owner.  Retained employees have the right to only be terminated for just cause or for layoff because fewer employees are needed during the first 90 days of employment with the new owner. Retained employees are entitled to a written performance evaluation at the end of 90 days period. 
  • An employer may not take an adverse action or retaliate against an employee who asserts their rights under the ordinance. 
  • Employees who believe the ordinance has been violated may file a private lawsuit to enforce their rights.   
  • Employees who believe that they have not been properly paid additional compensation afforded by the ordinance may file a wage theft complaint with the Office of Labor Standards
  • Employees that believe that they have been subjected to sexual harassment may file a complaint with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.


Rules and Ordinances

Administrative Rules - Practices for Administering Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative Requirements under SMC 14.25

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