Retailers granted an exemption from providing healthcare if they’re located in Seattle hotels

Sep 19, 2019
Written by wpengine

Generally, when you read about an ordinance to promote the health and safety of hotel workers, you do not assume that it would impact retailers.

However, an ordinance considered by the Seattle City Council (CB 119555) would have extended its healthcare coverage mandates and other provisions to retailers who lease space in a hotel. Although the stated intent of the ordinance is “to improve low-wage hotel employees’ access, through additional compensation, to high-quality, affordable health coverage for the employees and their spouses or domestic partners, children, and other dependents,” it would have placed the same requirements on a retailer (or “ancillary hotel business”) based simply on its location within a hotel building.

John Engber, the Director of the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, testified twice before the Council’s Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Committee to urge the Committee to narrow the definition to only employers that are located in the hotel and closely connected to the operations of that hotel. The goal was to exempt retailers that happened to locate a store in a hotel but are not critical to the operations of the hotel.

Last week, the Committee released a new draft of the ordinance that included a much narrower definition of “ancillary hotel businesses.” Under the new definition, a business is covered only if it “leases or sublets space at the site of the hotel for services in conjunction with the hotel’s purpose.” The new draft also adds a definition of “hotel’s purpose” as “services in conjunction with the hotel’s provision of short-term lodging including food or beverage services, recreational services, conference rooms, convention services, laundry services, and parking.”

This new language should effectively exempt all retailers leasing space in Seattle hotels.

The Committee approved this amended ordinance on September 12 and the full Council passed it on September 16.

The Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle appreciates the hard work and leadership that Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda and Councilmember Sally Bagshaw put into developing this new language.