THE WASHINGTON STATE Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a Seattle law that required hotels to provide employees with emergency panic buttons and to ban guests who harassed employees. The American Hotel and Lodging Association, which was party to the suit, welcomed the decision, saying the law denied due process to hotels and guests alike.
In its decision, the court ruled that Seattle Initiative 124, which passed as a ballot initiative in 2016, violated the “single subject rule” by including both the new safety requirements along with other healthcare requirements and work rules. This made it impossible to determine why voters actually supported the measure.
“Did [Initiative] 124 receive overwhelming support because almost 80 percent of Seattle voters supported all the provisions? Or did a majority of the voters want to provide better healthcare to these workers and were willing to accept the guest registry provisions as a necessary evil to achieve the healthcare goal?” the ruling said. “Because there is no rational unity between the provisions of [the law], it is impossible for the court to determine whether any provision would have received majority support if voted on separately.”
AHLA had brought the suit along with the Seattle Hotel Association and the Washington Hospitality Association.
“As we stated in court, we opposed Seattle Initiative 124 because we believe it violates the due process rights of our guests and places hotel employees in the role of law enforcement, without proper training,” AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar said. “And, while the initiative was passed under the guise of employee safety, it included several regulations that have nothing to do with safety, such as work rules and health insurance requirements.”
AHLA has opposed similar bills in California that also sought to combine requirements for panic buttons with other labor reforms. As an alternative, Lugar said, the association in September created the 5-Star Promise program. In that program, AHLA along with major companies, such as Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, promised to provide employee safety devices, aka “panic buttons,” as well as training and policies aimed at preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault against hotel employees.
The Seattle initiative passed with 77 percent of the vote, according to the Seattle Times. The city had little response to the ruling.
“We’re reviewing the decision and assessing our options for next steps,” Deputy City Attorney John Schochet told the Times.