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Washington and Seattle Legislative Roundup – Police, Discrimination, Litigation and Housing

Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2018 by McKean J. Evans

Washington’s 2018 legislative session recently closed. The legislative session resulted in a number of important changes to Washington law.

The Washington legislature enacted significant police reforms. Initiative 940 requires law enforcement officers undergo de-escalation training to help defuse situations before they become violent, and removes the requirement that officers be found to have acted with “malice” to be prosecuted for shootings. Because the legislature voted to enact Initiative 940, the measure becomes law without going to the ballot.

The legislature enacted several measures aimed at protecting women in the workforce from illegal discrimination. The legislature significantly curtailed the use of non-disclosure agreements that would otherwise require complainants in sexual harassment or assault cases to agree not to disclose the unfair treatment they experienced. Finally, the legislature enacted rules promoting gender pay equity by requiring compensation be based on bona fide job criteria and giving workers the right to openly discuss compensation.

In regards to civil litigation, the legislature updated the procedures for mandatory arbitration proceedings. Mandatory arbitration awards may now rise as high as $100,000; parties (as opposed to merely their lawyers) are required to sign off on appeals from mandatory arbitration awards; and arbitrators’ minimum qualifications were enhanced.

In Seattle, the City Council recently voted 8-0 to impose a one-year moratorium on so-called “rent bidding” websites. These websites are used by residential landlords to drive up rents by requiring prospective tenants to bid against each other to pay higher rent in order to rent apartments. The city council called out these practices as driving up the cost of housing in a city where housing costs already contribute to an existing homelessness crisis. The operator of one such rent-bidding platform claims the practice could benefit tenants, but also touts his platform to landlords as increasing rental profits up to five percent. The ban expires in one year, but may be renewed.

McKean Evans is an attorney at Pivotal Law Group representing insurance policyholders and ERISA plan participants and beneficiaries. McKean blogs regarding insurance and ERISA issues at https://seattleinsuranceanderisablog.com/.

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