Today a Washington State Court of Appeals threw out Initiative 124 in its entirety, holding that it unconstitutionally contains multiple unrelated topics.
I-124, which provides a number of protections and benefits for hotel workers, was passed by Seattle voters in November 2016.
The Appeals Court found that I-124 contains multiple separate parts, including:
- protecting workers who must enter guests’ hotel rooms from sexual harassment and assault by providing panic buttons and requiring hotels to maintain a list of guests who have been accused of sexual assault or harassment;
- requiring hotel employers to provide and use safety devices and safeguards, and prohibiting large hotels from requiring hotel workers to clean more than 5000 square feet per 8-hour day without time-and-a-half pay;
- requiring large hotel employers to provide healthcare subsidies to hotel workers or the equivalent of a gold-level healthcare policy;
- when a hotel changes ownership, requiring the new owner to hire from the list of employees prior to the sale for the first six months.
Case law says that an initiative can contain multiple items if they have “rational unity,” which means that they all relate to the title of the initiative and are germane to each other. The appeals court found that the initiative’s title is general, which makes the bar for relating to it low. But it found that the four parts of the initiative listed above were not germane to each other. The key test for this is whether the court couldr reasonably assess that a majority of voters would approve each of them individually, so that it is assured that voters didn’t vote of one they didn’t like in order to get another that they did like. And I-124 most certainly does not pass this test, the court found.
Further, it found that a fifth part of the bill, which establishes a private cause of action allowing individuals to sue employers directly for violations of the legislation, was both a violation of state labor law, and “a classic example of logrolling as prohibited by RCW 35A.12.130.”
The city may choose to appeal today’s ruling again to the state Supreme Court. If the ruling stands, it makes moot the separate challenge to I-124’s healthcare provision. UPDATE: the judge in the other case has issued a stay of the case pending further orders, because of the Court of Appeals ruling.