On July 1, 2020, legislation went into effect providing additional protections for certain hotel and motel employees in Seattle.  The legislation was enacted to protect Seattle hotel workers from harassment and discrimination, unsafe workloads, and job insecurity and to provide increased access to medical care.

Hotel Employees Safety Protections

In hotels and motels with 60 or more guest rooms or suites, the hotel employer must take certain steps to prevent hotel worker assault and harassment, including:

  • Providing a panic button to each employee assigned to work in or deliver items to a guest room;
  • Immediately responding when an employee activates the panic button by sending a security guard, hotel representative, or other employee to assist;
  • Posting a notice in each guest room referencing the ordinance to deter assaults; and
  • Developing a written policy against violent or harassing conduct by guests.

If the hotel employer learns that an employee was the victim of violent or harassing conduct, the employer must provide the accused guest with a written notice, take steps to safeguard employees from any future violent or harassing conduct by the guest, reassign the employee to an equivalent or better assignment at the employee’s request or consent, and give the employee up to 16 hours of paid time to seek legal help and/or obtain counseling services.

Protecting Hotel Employees from Injury

The legislation provides additional protections for employees of “large hotels” – a hotel or motel containing 100 or more guest rooms or suites.  An employee who is assigned to clean guest rooms at a large hotel may not be required to clean more than 4,500 square feet in a shift of 8 hours or more.  Stricter square footage requirements apply if the employee undertakes more than 10 “strenuous room cleanings” in a shift (defined as cleaning a checkout room; a stayover room that includes cleaning, removal, or setup of a bed or crib; or a stayover room not cleaned in more than 36 hours).  If the employee voluntarily consents to clean rooms in excess of the maximum square footage, the employee must be paid three times the hourly rate for time spent cleaning the excess space.

Improving Access to Medical Care

Employees who work for a covered employer at a large hotel for an average of 80 hours or more per month are also entitled to improved access to medical care.  A covered employer must make monthly healthcare expenditures to or on behalf of each covered employee.  The monthly expenditures range from $420 to $1,260 per month, depending on the employee’s marital status and whether he or she has dependents.

Hotel Employees Job Retention

In an effort to reduce job insecurity in the hospitality workforce, the legislation places certain obligations on outgoing and incoming hotel employers when a hotel undergoes a change in control.  The outgoing employer must post a written notice of the change in control of the hotel and provide a “preferential hiring list” to the incoming employer.

The incoming employer must keep the notice of the change in control posted for 180 days.  The incoming employer is also required to hire from the preferential hiring list for 180 days after the change in control to the extent it is hiring for comparable job classifications.  Employees hired from the preferential hiring list must be retained for at least 90 days, and the employer must provide a written performance evaluation and consider offering the employee a permanent position.

The job retention legislation applies to hotels and motels with 60 or more guest rooms or suites.