A Victory for Seattle Hotel Workers

Big news! Hotel workers in Seattle will soon have stronger protections against sexual assault and harassment by guests, a defense against overwork that regularly results in their injury, and increased access to affordable health care! As you may recall, in 2016, Seattle voters passed the Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative (I-124), which sought to improve protections and working conditions for the city's hardworking hotel workers. Since then, Seattle's Office of Labor Standards (OLS) and local advocates have been developing rules to put the initiative into action. We have been advocating alongside hotel workers and UNITE HERE Local 8, the Northwest's hospitality union—along with other allies including Fair Work Center, Puget Sound Sage, and 21 Progress—to ensure these rules are strong and community-focused, and that they truly protect workers. We recently received the final rules, and they are great! The rules reinforce and clarify the ordinance requirements, under which employers must:

  • provide panic buttons to all hotel workers who work in guest rooms, to protect against sexual assault and harassment by guests;

  • provide workers who experience guest violence or harassment with paid leave to consult with an advisor and to file a police report (in addition to existing rights to paid safe time) and must reassign workers to another area as requested;

  • keep a list of guests accused of assault, sexual assault, or sexual harassment against hotel employees, prohibit such guests from staying at the hotel for three years where evidence is shown, and warn workers when such guests return to the hotel;

  • limit the square footage and strenuous rooms housekeepers are required to clean per day. The workers may refuse to exceed these limits; if a worker consents, they must get paid the overtime rate for all hours worked that day; and

  • either provide affordable "gold-level" insurance coverage to employees and their families or provide additional pay to workers so they can pay for the medical care or insurance they and their families need.

The ordinance gives workers the right to file cases in court for violations. OLS also ensured workers will have good protections from wage theft by allowing wage complaints under the ordinance to be filed with the agency. These powerful new rules go into effect on July 1.

For more information about the local movement for hotel worker rights, read our interview with UNITE HERE LOCAL 8!


Photo credit: Luke Air Force Base | Creative Commons

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