OLYMPIA, Wash. – A judge has ruled that a lawsuit against the city of Seattle over extra pay for food delivery workers during the COVID pandemic can move forward.
Grocery delivery service Instacart and the Washington Food Industry Association filed the suit last June after the Seattle city council passed an ordinance requiring food delivery companies to pay drivers an additional $2.50 per delivery for their first stop, and an additional $1.25 for each additional stop for every order during the pandemic.
The measure was the first of its kind in the nation to give such compensation to gig workers, and went into effect on June 26, 2020. These workers, considered independent contractors, do not receive benefits from the parent company and must absorb any personal costs incurred to keep themselves safe while delivering during the pandemic.
But WFIA and Instacart allege in the lawsuit that the ordinance is arbitrary and misguided.
“Friday’s ruling was a significant win for independent grocers and employers like Instacart who continue to provide safe shopping environments for their customers and their employees,” said Tammie Hetrick, WFIA president and CEO. “The city of Seattle continues its blatant overreach with this ordinance, which singles out particular employers and arbitrarily establishes extra pay for an indefinite period of time.”
According to the lawsuit, the ordinance forces businesses to pay premium wages to all food delivery workers classified as independent contractors. These costs cannot be offset by modifying or suspending services in Seattle, limiting or reducing workers’ pay or earning capacity, or imposing additional customer fees.
On Friday, Judge Michael Scott found merit with core parts of the WFIA suit, allowing the case to move forward. The case alleges the ordinance violates the equal protection clause, takings clause and police powers.
The judge did grant the city’s motion to dismiss the claim that the ordinance violated Initiative 1634. In 2018, Washington voters rejected an effort to tax groceries with I-1634. As such, this portion of the lawsuit has been dismissed.