For Immediate Release
Washington, DC – The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) remains confident in our lawsuit against the City of Seattle and believes that the court will reject the City’s latest filing to dismiss the lawsuit.
“Yesterday’s filing does nothing to diminish the fact that the City of Seattle is overreaching and trying to preempt federal law by imposing mandates on employers that are already offering health coverage to their employees,” said Annette Guarisco Fildes, President and CEO, ERIC. “We look forward to responding to the City’s arguments and are confident that the law is on our side. We will prevail.”
In January, ERIC filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, challenging Seattle’s Municipal Code (SMC) 14.28, on the grounds that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preempts the new law. ERISA is the federal law that regulates employers who choose to provide health and retirement benefits, and that enables them to administer those benefits uniformly across the country.
The Seattle City Council’s new law requires large hotel employers and employers of ancillary hotel businesses to make health care payments to or on behalf of their employees. ERIC believes the new law is preempted by ERISA because its requirement that hotel employers make direct payments to employees or provide coverage under their group health plans has an impermissible reference to and connection with an ERISA plan.
In 2018, ERIC filed the original complaint, challenging Seattle’s earlier health care ordinance contained in Part 3 of the Seattle Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative – SMC 14.25, which would have mandated large hotels to either offer a specific level of coverage in an employer-sponsored group health plan or to provide additional compensation based, in part, on the cost of coverage. The City later repealed SMC 14.25 after ERIC briefed the ERISA preemption issues, and the Washington state appellate court voided all aspects of the initiative on state constitutional grounds, replacing it with SMC 14.28.