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Seattle grants hotel workers new protections as industry booms

Seattle is home to one of the fastest-growing hotel markets in the U.S., fueled by the ongoing tech boom centered in South Lake Union and massive developments including the expanded Washington State Convention Center and revamp of the Seattle Waterfront. The new growth is expected to attract record numbers of tourists and businesspeople in need of hotel rooms.

Four new laws passed by the Seattle City Council last week may help ensure that the benefits of the hotel industry’s rapid growth also extend to its workforce, which is made up of a large portion of low-paid women, immigrants and other minority groups.

The laws seek to protect hotel workers by limiting daily work loads; requiring additional pay for health insurance; providing panic buttons to help guard against sexual assault and harassment; and ensuring that employees keep their jobs if hotel ownership changes.

The City Council protections coincide with the emergence of stricter anti-sexual harassment laws in other industries in the #MeToo era.

Washington voters approved a similar set of hotel worker laws in 2016, called Initiative 124, but the ballot measure was subsequently struck down in the courts.

Since the passage of I-124, Seattle’s downtown hotel market has added more than 2,500 rooms, representing a fivefold increase in growth over the two previous years, according to Visit Seattle.

Seattle hotels are forecast to expand another 5.6 percent this year, according to CBRE Hotels Research, with several thousand more rooms expected to come online over the next few years.

Workers need protections amid this rapid growth.

Emery Reddy has represented thousands of workers in Washington state who’ve experienced harassment, workplace discrimination and wrongful termination, as well as unlawful pay and leave practices, workplace injury, L&I and other employment law claims.

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