ERIC: The Law is on Our Side in Seattle Health Mandate Lawsuit

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) filed a response to the City of Seattle, which had asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to dismiss our amended complaint.

ERIC’s filing rejects the City’s assertion that its recently enacted health-benefits ordinance – Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 14.28 – is not preempted by federal law and urged the Court to order that ERIC’s case continue.  

“The City of Seattle continues to grasp at straws to portray the new law as anything but what it is, an attempt 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.

ERIC’s amended complaint centers around the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) – 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 City’s SMC 14.28 mandates large hotel employers and employers of ancillary hotel businesses to make health care payments to or on behalf of their employees or provide health care coverage. ERIC believes the 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.

“The Court must deny the City’s motion to dismiss the case, as it is completely off the mark of being legally accurate. ERIC is confident that the law is on our side and we will once again prevail,” said Guarisco Fildes,

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 The City later repealed SMC 14.25 after ERIC briefed the ERISA preemption issues, and the Washington state appellate court voided all aspects of the initiative on state constitutional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.

###

All media inquiries to The ERISA Industry Committee should be directed to:

Kelly Broadway, 202.627.1918, kbroadway@eric.org

About the ERISA Industry Committee
ERIC is a national advocacy organization that exclusively represents large employers that provide health, retirement, paid leave, and other benefits to their nationwide workforces. With member companies that are leaders in every sector of the economy, ERIC advocates on the federal, state, and local levels for policies that promote flexibility and uniformity in the administration of their employee benefit plans.