The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Seattle’s ordinance to improve access to health care for workers at hotels, one of Seattle’s progressive labor standards meant to protect the safety and well-being of workers in Seattle. The law requires hotel employers and ancillary hotel businesses to include employees in their health benefit plans or make fixed, wage-like payments to their employees for the purpose of improving their access to health care.
The legislation was developed collaboratively between Mayor Jenny Durkan, Council President M. Lorena González and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, in consultation with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “The plaintiffs tried to sell a strained legal argument that Seattle’s ordinance was preempted by federal retirement law (ERISA), but the judges saw right though that. Today’s decision will improve people’s access to health care, which is essential even in times we’re not faced with a global pandemic. My thanks to Assistant City Attorney Jeremiah Miller who managed and argued this case on behalf of the City.”
“Seattle continues to lead the way by protecting and creating opportunity for all workers in our communities. Working together, we have led the nation on some of the strongest worker protections in the country, and this legislation is critical to ensuring that hotel workers are able to access needed protection and health care,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rightfully upheld this ordinance to maintain protections for some of our City’s most vulnerable workers. As we work to build back better from this pandemic, all of our workers deserve our support.”
Council President M. Lorena González said, “On the same day that Medicare for All legislation is introduced in the U.S. Congress, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the City of Seattle’s Improving Access to Medical Care for Hotel Employees Ordinance. I was proud to be a prime sponsor of this legislation designed to provide thousands of hotel workers access to medical care in direct response to high-injury rates in the workplace. With this legal victory, thousands of hotel workers will now receive much needed access to medical care. Hotel workers take care of us and I’m proud that we can also take care of their needs. Congratulations to the members of Unite Here Local 8, who fought tirelessly to get this passed first by the voters and then by the Seattle City Council.”
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said, “Affordable and quality healthcare helps build stronger, healthier, and more resilient communities. Thanks to our incredible team at the City Attorney’s Office, hotel workers can now rest assured that they have access to high quality accessible and affordable healthcare. Health care access is especially important for hotel workers who have higher rates of injury than coal miners and those in building construction trades, and hotel workers have three times the amount of back injuries of those of the general population. No worker should have to choose between paying medical expenses and putting food on the able, today’s ruling helps ease that worry for hotel workers.”
The ordinance applies to employers who own, control or operate a large hotel or ancillary hotel business in the city of Seattle with 50 or more employees worldwide. Large hotels are hotels or motels containing 100 or more guest rooms. The Ordinance allows employers to choose how to make the payments required to the hourly employees. Covered employers may make direct, monthly payments to employees; monthly payments to third parties such as insurance carriers; average monthly per-capita expenditures for health care through a self-funded insurance plan; or any combination of those methods.
Information about the “Improving Access to Medical Care for Hotel Employees Ordinance” is available at the Office of Labor Standards website here.