Chamber members learn more about rule changes to Seattle's labor laws

By: Alicia Teel Posted: 02/29/2016

Expert panel guides members toward ensuring compliance with these complex laws

PH Recap Feb 2016_WideDozens of Seattle Metro Chamber members participated in a recent session at the Chamber's office to gain a deeper understanding of a recent suite of changes to Seattle's four labor laws. Some of these changes took effect in January, while others, like a new private right of action for some of the laws, start taking effect later this year. 

Throughout the panel discussion speakers emphasized the importance of employers--businesses and non-profits alike--staying informed about these laws so that their policies and practices comply. Panelists also noted that having the Chamber and other employer representatives present during the policymaking process was crucial. Referring to the degree of the changes, panelist Michael Hirschler, human resources director for the Four Seasons stated, "What we have today is a lot different than what it could have been, and that's because we were at the table."

The four laws affected are: 

  • Paid Sick and Safe Time
  • Fair Chance Employment (formerly Job Assistance Ordinance)
  • Wage Theft 
  • Minimum Wage Ordinance

The panel, which consisted of Hirschler as well as Kellis Borek, vice president of labor and legal services at Archbright, and Suzanne Thomas, partner at K&L Gates, gave attendees an overview of how each of these laws is affected by the amendments, and took questions from attendees. George Allen, contract lobbyist for the Chamber and a member of the City of Seattle's Labor Standards Advisory Group, moderated the event.

Panelists discussed a wide range of the laws' aspects, from elements the four laws have in common to specific concerns pertaining to a particular law, such as:   

  • Employer responsibilities when using a vendor
  • The need to post a notice in the workplace if the City starts a labor law investigation
  • The importance of prompt cooperation in an investigation
  • Key language that must be used if an employer chooses to change to a service charge model
  • How to appropriately refer to use of criminal background checks in a job posting

Members also had the opportunity to meet Dylan Orr, director of the Office of Labor Standards, which enforces the four labor laws, and his colleague Karina Bull from the City's Office for Civil Rights. 

This event, part of our Policy Hash series, is an example of the Chamber's ongoing work to make sure employers can comply with the City's four labor standards laws, particularly as the City adjusts the rules around these complex ordinances. Members of the Chamber's board of trustees and our city contract lobbyist, George Allen, have engaged constructively in stakeholder processes throughout the years to ensure that employer concerns are taken into account and that unintended consequences are minimized.

This advocacy includes our current efforts to increase funding available for employer education from the City's general fund. We believe employers are committed to doing the right thing, and it is imperative that the City provide sufficient funding from its core fund so that employers have the resources they need to comply. For more information about the Chamber's work on these four labor laws, please contact Meadow Johnson, our senior vice president of external relations. 


  1. Share your input on the business community's outreach and education needs for these ordinances, as well as solutions to those needs. RSVP here to join the Office for Labor Standards on March 2 from 10:00 a.m. - Noon at the  Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington (1414 South Weller Street Seattle, WA 98144). 


  2. Review the Office of Labor Standards' resources​, available online, including a guide to the recent changes. Featured resources include posters for your workplace and fact sheets.