The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) has begun its rulemaking process for the Seattle Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative, also known as Initiative 124. This Ordinance, in effect since December 2016, is primarily designed to protect hotel workers from sexual assault. Among other things, the Ordinance requires hotels to give their employees individual (and sometimes costly) “panic buttons” in case of assault by guests; that hotels maintain lists of guests accused of assault; and it restricts the number of rooms an employee may clean each shift. Large hotels must also provide additional compensation to employees to defray the costs of medical coverage. The Ordinance creates a preference for hiring former employees if a hotel changes management.
The rulemaking process will determine the scope of much of the Ordinance, and stakeholder input is key. Details on how to participate are included at the end of this article.
Background on the Ordinance. The ballot initiative was approved on November 8. 2016. Its stated purpose was to provide greater safety and economic protections to hotel employees. Industry groups challenged the law in court, though the city won after the court ruled there was no standing to sue. The case was appealed and transferred to an appeals court on January 3, 2018. The Ordinance currently remains in effect and covered employers should continue to comply in the face of this uncertain appeal.
Which Employers are Covered? The law applies to all hotels and motels within the City of Seattle containing 60 or more guest rooms or suites of rooms. Businesses with more than 100 guest rooms or suites are subject to additional provisions.
Why Should Stakeholders Participate in Rulemaking? Current proposed areas of rulemaking include protections for hotel employees against sexual harassment by guests, and compensation paid to employees for medical coverage. Crucially, enforcement mechanisms will be examined as well. The current primary enforcement mechanism of the law is a private right of action granted to employees, but OLS may seek to include provisions in the rules that allow OLS to investigate violations and bring claims against covered employers.
When Can You Participate? The first meeting is on January 18, with subsequent meetings scheduled through March.