September 04, 2020

Restaurant Law Center Files Amicus to Block Seattle Hospitality Law

Industry Coalition Says Law is Preempted by Federal Law

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A group of hospitality, restaurant and small business advocates, led by the Restaurant Law Center, filed a “Friend of the Court” brief Thursday with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that a Seattle health care ordinance that imposes new burdensome obligations on hotels and some “ancillary hotel businesses” violates federal law. At a time when businesses are facing unprecedented economic and operational challenges posed by government shutdown orders, the group called on the Ninth Circuit not to allow the illegal ordinance to stand.

The brief, submitted by the Restaurant Law Center and joined by the Washington Hospitality Association, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association asks the Ninth Circuit to overturn a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, ERISA Industry Committee v. City of Seattle. The hospitality and restaurant industry advocates argue that the law in question, SMC 14.28, runs afoul of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), passed by Congress in 1974.

The groups outlined how ERISA created a nationally uniform system governing employee benefits and plan administration, and that the Seattle law is not permissible because of the federal law’s clear and consistently upheld preemption. They also pointed out that recent Supreme Court decisions undermine the very foundation of the District Court’s decision.

“By preserving SMC 14.28, the District Court has recreated precisely what ERISA was meant to eliminate, as both small and large restaurant businesses operating in Seattle may feel pressure to comply with two very different benefit regimes—one sanctioned by ERISA, the other operating in its shadow. This system of competing regulations would be impermissible under any circumstance,” Restaurant Law Center Executive Director Angelo Amador said.

“At a time when every level of government should be working to protect the restaurant and hospitality sectors, as well as small businesses economy-wide, Seattle’s ordinance ads an extra burden that, faced with the prospect of either complying or risking fines or other penalties, many businesses will not be able to bear,” he added.

The case is The ERISA industry Committee v. City of Seattle. Click here to read a copy of the full brief. Click here to learn more about the Restaurant Law Center.

The Restaurant Law Center is an independent 501(c)(6). The Center's goal is to promote pro-business laws and regulations that allow restaurants to continue growing, creating jobs and contributing to a robust American economy. The Center is the voice of America’s restaurants in the courtroom advancing the policy interests of the industry.

About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises more than 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.5 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit and find @WeRRestaurants on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.