Last month, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled against a voter initiative intended to protect hotel workers from assault by guests, though hospitality groups say the provisions are unnecessary or violate guests’ rights. The city of Seattle now wants the State Supreme Court to take up the matter.
Approved in 2016 by Seattle residents with a 76 percent majority, Initiative 124 requires hotels with 60 or more rooms to provide emergency panic buttons to all workers if they feel threatened or believe criminal activity is going on. Hotels are also required to keep a list of guests accused of physical or sexual assault against workers. The initiative mandates that guests be banned if the accusations are “supported by a statement made under perjury or other evidence.”
However, the initiative was challenged by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Seattle Hotel Association and the Washington Hospitality Association. The plaintiffs argued that the text violated the “single subject” provision in state law, as well as Article IV of the Seattle City Charter. In its Dec. 24 ruling, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed a prior superior court decision upholding the initiative, arguing that the initiative in fact violated the single-subject clause because the initiative identifies “four distinct and separate purposes.”
“Requiring hotels to maintain a list of people who have been accused of sexually harassing hotel employees is unrelated to limiting the number of square feet a hotel worker can be required to clean in an eight-hour period without being paid overtime,” the decision reads.
However, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes announced that he is planning to appeal the decision to the state high court later this month. In a statement, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she supported the move. “With overwhelming support, voters spoke clearly that Seattle will ensure fair treatment in the workplace. Working with the City Council, we will put forward new legislation to provide the important protections for the health and safety of employees working at hotels in Seattle.”
Also at the press conference with Holmes was Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who tweeted: “With 77% of the voters supporting the initiative and the fact these protections were long overdue, to go back would be unjust!”
In a statement, the Seattle Hotel Association argued that “many Seattle hotels already had safety alert systems or were implementing them before Election Day in 2016. For Seattle hotels, this isn’t about the panic buttons we already had. We continue to fight because of other items in the law, like the blacklist that violates the due process rights of our guests. Initiative 124 makes Seattle hotels choose between protecting our employees and protecting the rights of our guests. We must protect both.”