Supreme Court Seeks Government Opinion on Seattle Hotel Workers Insurance Law

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A hotel worker demonstrates outside airport hotels to demand expanded health care coverage., REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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  • Business group seeks to revive challenge to 2019 law
  • Lower courts said there was no conflict with federal law
  • Supreme Court seeks Solicitor General’s opinion

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Biden administration to consider whether a Seattle order requiring hotels to offer health insurance to low-wage workers is barred under federal benefits law employee social.

The court invited U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar to file a brief as part of a bid by the industry committee ERISA (ERIC), a group of companies, to revive its challenge to the 2019 law, which requires large hoteliers to provide up to $1,375 per month in insurance benefits or direct payments to workers.

Annette Guarisco Fildes, president and CEO of ERIC, said in a statement that the group was encouraged by the court’s request for the government to intervene. She said the federal government had in the past suggested that similar local laws were invalid.

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The Seattle City Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last year, the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the group’s claim that the city’s law was prohibited by the federal Employees Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA ), which overrides state laws that attempt to regulate employee benefit plans.

The 9th Circuit, agreeing with a federal judge in Seattle, said the city’s law does not require employers to create new plans or modify existing ones, and therefore is not prohibited by ERISA .

In a January petition, ERIC told the Supreme Court that the 9th Circuit took too narrow a view of ERISA. The federal law was designed to create uniform national standards for benefits plans to follow, and the Seattle law would upend that plan by requiring special treatment for workers in a single industry in a single city, said the group.

ERIC is supported by many trade groups, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

The case is ERISA Industry Committee v. City of Seattle, United States Supreme Court, No. 21-1019.

For the ERISA Industry Committee: Paul Clement of Kirkland & Ellis

For Seattle: Peter Stris of Stris & Maher; Jeremiah Miller of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office

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Daniel Wiessner

Thomson Reuters

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be contacted at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.

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