Washington Supreme Court Finds that City of SeaTac Minimum Wage/Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Applies to Employers Located at the Port of Seattle


The legal challenge to the SeaTac Minimum Employment Standard for Hospitality and Transportation Industry Employers (“SeaTac Ordinance”) was dealt a possibly lethal blow as the Washington Supreme Court reversed the King County Superior Court’s ruling that the Ordinance does not apply to  businesses operating within the Port of Seattle. After the SeaTac Ordinance was passed in 2013, legal challenges began. In December 2013, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled that the Ordinance was invalid as to “employers and employees conducting business within the boundaries of SeaTac International Airport.” The matter was brought before the Washington State Supreme Court. On August 20, 2015, that court upheld the SeaTac ordinance, holding that the City of SeaTac does have the power to legislate within the Port’s boundaries (as long as it does not interfere with the Port’s operations) and that the SeaTac Ordinance can be validly enforced at SeaTac Airport.1 In addition, the supreme court held that the SeaTac Ordinance’s anti-retaliation provision is not preempted by federal labor law, reversing the trial court on that issue as well. Finally, the supreme court held that the ordinance was not preempted by either the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 or the Railway Labor Act. Under the supreme court’s ruling, the SeaTac Ordinance is upheld in its entirety, and applies to all affected employers within the City of SeaTac, regardless of whether or not they operate within Port boundaries.

The SeaTac Ordinance was effective January 1, 2014. Employers who have employees in the City of SeaTac should analyze whether they are covered by the SeaTac Ordinance, which only extends to certain “transportation” and “hospitality” workers.2 They should also promptly consider what steps they have already taken to implement the SeaTac Ordinance and whether they need to take additional steps in light of the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling.


1Filo Foods, LLC v. City of SeaTac, 2015 Wash. LEXIS 890 (Aug. 20,  2015).

2 For a more in-depth discussion about the Ordinance, see Pamela Salgado and Kellie Tabor, $15.00 Minimum Wage and Mandatory Paid Sick and Safe Leave for Transportation and Hospitality Workers Take Effect in City of SeaTac, Littler Insight (Jan. 10, 2014).


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