In a June 29 post, we argued that a Seattle ordinance imposing a premium-pay requirement on some grocery-delivery networks would poorly serve public health and couldn’t withstand a legal challenge. In unprecedented fashion, the ordinance threatened the companies with fines and business-license revocation if they made any adjustments to delivery workers’ compensation or service coverage in response to the ordinance.
The Washington Food Industry Association and Instacart will test the law’s legality in a declaratory judgment action filed in King County Superior Court. Represented by former Washington Attorney General (and WLF Legal Policy Advisory Board member) Rob McKenna of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, the plaintiffs ask the court to declare the ordinance in violation of Washington state law and the U.S. Constitution.
The state-law claims argue that the ordinance exceeds Seattle’s police powers and that it is preempted by a 2018 voter initiative that prohibits local governments from imposing any tax or fee on certain grocery items. The lawsuit also alleges that the ordinance violates the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment right to just compensation for Seattle’s taking of the companies personal property, and their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection.
Other localities that may be contemplating laws similar to Seattle’s should follow the plaintiffs’ suit closely, as will we.