Judge dismisses lawsuit that sought to halt Seattle grocery store hazard pay ordinance

Mar 18, 2021, 12:18 PM
Lawsuit Hazard pay, grocery stores...
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A U.S. District judge dismissed a lawsuit Thursday that had looked to halt Seattle’s extra $4 an hour grocery store worker hazard pay ordinance.

Mayor Durkan rejects calls to veto grocery store hazard pay

The lawsuit was filed in February by the Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Food Industry Association, which argued that the ordinance did not consider existing union agreements, that it impaired existing contracts with employees, and was unfair because it denies equal protections to workers in other industries.

Plaintiffs had also asked for a preliminary injunction to keep the hazard pay from going into effect while the lawsuit played out. That injunction was also denied as part of Thursday’s dismissal from Judge John Coughenour.

In terms of whether the hazard pay ordinance flouted union agreements, Judge Coughenour noted in his ruling that the law “is primarily concerned with establishing an equitable process for determining terms and conditions of employment,” but does not specifically apply to things like wages.

Opinion: Shades of hypocrisy in Seattle hazard pay debate

Regarding the claim of an equal protections violation, Coughenour pointed out how that applies more to discriminating on the basis of gender or race, which he noted is “not an issue in this case.”

The claim from plaintiffs that the hazard pay impaired existing contracts was found to be similarly erroneous, given that they “provided no specific allegations of contracts or contractual terms which the ordinance might impair.”

This marks a significant victory for grocery store hazard pay ordinances across Western Washington. King County passed the measure for stores in unincorporated areas earlier in March. Burien also passed a $5 an hour grocery hazard pay bill shortly after Seattle, while Port Orchard was awaiting the fate of the now-dismissed lawsuit before moving forward with its own plans.

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Judge dismisses lawsuit that sought to halt Seattle grocery store hazard pay ordinance