Legislation follows through on will of overwhelming percentage of Seattle voters, expands harassment and health and safety protections
SEATTLE – Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide) and M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), along with their Council Colleagues, passed legislation to protect Seattle’s hotel workers from harassment and discrimination, supporting safe workloads, promoting economic stability through worker retention and providing healthcare benefits. The Seattle City Council voted 9-0 on the four pieces of hotel workers’ legislation during its regularly scheduled meeting today.
The Council’s hotel workers legislation passed following nine committee hearings and nine months of engagement and policy-refinement with hotel workers the hotel industry, sexual assault survivor advocates, and other community stakeholders. The hotel workers legislation is made up of four pieces of legislation, which include Council Bill 119554, CB 119555, CB 119556 and CB 119557. The legislation tracks the protections promised in Seattle Initiative 124, an initiative passed by 77% of Seattle voters in 2016.
“In an industry where workers experience an injury rate higher than both coal mining and building construction, extraordinary rates of assault and harassment, and where the workforce is overwhelmingly women of color, it’s no surprise that council needed to act,” said Mosqueda, co-sponsor of the legislation. “I’m honored to have carried out the will of 77% of Seattle voters, collaborating with the hotel industry, workers, their labor unions and community partners, to sponsor legislation that protects workers. Today has been a long time in the making. Seattle has, and will continue, to stand with its workers to build an economy that works for us all.”
“Today, is a momentous and historic day for workers in the hotel industry and Seattle voters who in 2016 overwhelmingly voted in favor of Initiative 124,” said González, co-sponsor of the legislation. “The four bills unanimously passed by Seattle City Council will usher in critically important and overdue protections for vulnerable workers in hotels; most of whom are women, immigrants and people of color. Together, this legislation will strengthen protections for workers from sexual harassment, reduce high rates of workplace injuries due to excessive workloads, provide access to quality, affordable healthcare, and require job retention when ownership transfers occur. It has been an honor to work with workers and the hospitality industry on solutions that will benefit the health and well-being of these workers and their families.”
To address hotel worker harassment, the legislation:
- Requires hotels to provide panic buttons to hotel workers, should they experience an assault or harassment
- Requires hotels to immediately respond to panic buttons used by hotel workers
- Defines a hotel’s responsibilities should a guest be accused of violent or harassing conduct
- Requires that a hotel employer must not assign any employees to work in or make deliveries to the guest’s room for the balance of the guest’s stay whenever there is an allegation that a guest engaged in violent or harassing conduct
- Requires a hotel employer to give a hotel worker up to 16 hours of paid time off to consult with a counselor, advisor or advocate after a report an of assault or harassment Describes how hotels must inform hotel guests of employee harassment policies
To address the health impacts experienced by hotel workers, the legislation:
- Sets a minimum employer healthcare expenditure that either requires hotel employers to pay for hotel workers healthcare, or pay the minimum healthcare expenditure amount directly to employees or to a third-party for the employee
- Sets safe workload thresholds to minimize injury. If a hotel worker cleans more than 4,500 square feet in a day, a hotel worker will be paid three times their pay rate for additional square feet cleaned.
“Housekeeping workers like me have a lot of injuries because they work too fast and have to clean too many rooms,” said Seattle hotel worker Yan Deng. “When we have less injuries, we can take care of our families better. Having our health is important.”
“We are pleased that Seattle City Council passed legislation today that increases protections for hotel workers, who are often women of color placed in vulnerable situations, without creating ‘no-stay lists’ that could easily be abused,” said Michele Storms, executive director of the ACLU of Washington. “We appreciate the Councilmembers careful consideration of the civil liberties and worker safety interests at issue.”
The hotel worker legislation also promotes economic stability by reducing job insecurity in the hospitality workforce that is caused by changes in ownership.
The hotel worker legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2020 for most hotel employers. The smallest so-called “ancillary hotel businesses” are exempted if they have up to 50 employees globally. Ancillary hotel business is defined as: “any business that (1) routinely contracts with the hotel for services in conjunction with the hotel’s purpose; (2) leases or sublets space at the site of the hotel for services in conjunction with the hotel’s purpose; or (3) provides food and beverages, to hotel guests and to the public, with an entrance within the hotel premises.”
The hotel worker legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2025 for ancillary hotel businesses with under 250 employees globally.