Hotels groups successfully appeal Seattle panic-button law

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The downtown Seattle waterfront.
The downtown Seattle waterfront. Photo Credit: VDB Photos/Shutterstock.com

Seattle's Initiative 124, a union-backed ordinance focused on hotel employee safety and labor standards, was overturned by Washington's Court of Appeals. 

Passed in late 2016 by the Seattle City Council, Initiative 124 required hotels with at least 60 rooms to provide panic buttons to employees working alone in rooms. Seattle became the first U.S. city to require hotels to provide panic buttons.

More controversially, the measure required hotels to ban guests accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault for a minimum of three years, without due process. Accused guests would have their name on the hotel's list for five years. The appeals court declared that part of Initiative 124 unconstitutional. 

The appeals court also ruled that the ordinance violates the state's single-subject rule, which dictates that a measure can only address a single issue or topic. 

The measure sparked immediate pushback from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), Seattle Hotel Association and Washington Hospitality Association, which spearheaded efforts to overturn the ordinance. 

"As we stated in court, we opposed Seattle Initiative 124 because we believe it violates the due process rights of our guests and places hotel employees in the role of law enforcement, without proper training," said AH&LA president and CEO Katherine Lugar in a statement. "While the initiative was passed under the guise of employee safety, it included several regulations that have nothing to do with safety, such as work rules and health insurance requirements. We are pleased that the Washington Court of Appeals agreed with our assessment and invalidated the initiative."

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