Sad news from Seattle today: Paseo is closed. Both locations. Terrible.
Earlier today, the International Franchise Association filed a lawsuit against Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, claiming that the ordinance unfairly discriminated against franchisees as a class. Part of the claim (perhaps the strongest part) is based on Article I, Section 12 of the Washington State Constitution, which reads in its entirety:
No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations.
The IFA claims that the minimum wage ordinance violates Art. I, Sec. 12 because it treats one class of corporations (franchisees) differently than other corporations.
But why do “classes” of corporations receive any protection under the Washington Constitution? The text of the provision specifically talks about granting privileges to “any citizen” (the singular), any “class of citizens” (the plural), or any “corporation” (the singular). There is no language regarding “classes” of corporations.
Under the usual rules regarding the interpretation of constitutional texts, the singular “corporation” next to the specific inclusion of classes of non-corporate citizens would compel the conclusion that classes of corporations are not protected by the provision.
I did a bit of quick research this afternoon through Washington Supreme Court cases, and none of them seem to directly address this question—though they do apply the provision to classes of corporations. It seems like IFA’s complaint has some basis in Washington’s case law, but I wonder if it has any basis in Washington’s Constitution?
Robert S. Moore v. Commercial Aircraft Interiors, LLC (Division 1, May 29, 2012), is not factually unique — person leaves a job, he wants to work for a competitor, lawsuits are threatened, and we end up in court — but the Court of Appeals’ ruling seems to touch on some new law regarding what sorts of litigation threats a former employer can make (hint: lots of latitude) and what redress a former employee has against those threats (hint: you’re S.O.L.). Don’t get too excited, however. While a broad reading of the opinion gives a lot of power to employers to restrict their former employees, I think a narrower (and more appropriate) reading just requires a former employee to produce some (any!) evidence of improper purpose behind an employer’s allegedly tortious actions. Continue reading
Ah, the tort of wrongful termination in violation of public policy (“WTVPP”). It’s one of those little quirks of Washington law that made the bar exam so fun to study for. In Charles Rose v. Anderson Hay & Grain Company (Division 3, May 22, 2012), the Court of Appeals held that, even assuming there existed a Washington public policy in need of protection, the relevant federal statute adequately protected that policy. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s claim for WTVPP under Washington law was properly dismissed. Continue reading
I don’t think there is a whole lot of “new” law in Reynold Quedado v. The Boeing Company (Division 1, May 14, 2012), but whatever new law there is… well… it’s not so good for employees looking to sue their employer on a theory of breach of implied contract. And even to the extent the law is old, the Court’s application of the law to Boeing’s Code of Conduct and other policies will undoubtedly be of use and interest to employment law practitioners. Continue reading
Certainly you’ve been driving around Seattle and come across some road construction. And certainly you’ve encountered a Seattle Police Department officer directing traffic at the construction site, telling you where to go, telling you to stop, telling you to slow down, &c. He or she was in uniform, had a badge, probably had a gun, and looked pretty darn official, I’d imagine.
Well, you might be surprised to learn that the officer you saw was not an employee of the City of Seattle (at least for workers’ comp purposes) according to the Court of Appeals in Gary Merlino Construction Company v. City of Seattle (Division 1, April 9, 2012). Continue reading