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Businesses, customers push back against ‘additional danger’ of Seattle app ordinance

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(The Center Square) – A city of Seattle proposal limiting the ability of companies to deactivate app-based workers has drawn criticism from businesses, community leaders, and customers themselves.

At a June 27 meeting of the Public Safety and Human Rights Committee, numerous individuals testifying on the proposed ordinance warned it would undermine safety for customers and discourage them from reporting inappropriate behavior.

“There are few things more important to me, my community, my family, than safety,” Bishop Garry Tyson told the committee. Tyson is the pastor at Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church.

Under the proposed ordinance, companies with 250 or more employees would have to conduct an investigation of alleged misconduct and establish “reasonable policies” for deactivating a worker’s account. If that were to happen, a worker would have 14 days’ notice that their account is to be deactivated.

However, an exemption would be made, allowing for immediate deactivation if there were allegations of “egregious misconduct.” Since it was first proposed in May, the draft ordinance has been amended to provide more types of behavior that would fall under that category such as:

Racial slursAnimal crueltyOther conduct that would constitute a Class A felony offense

However, Tyson argued during his testimony that the ordinance still doesn’t allow for immediate action in all instances that demand it. “The public deserves the peace of mind knowing they [workers] will be removed from the platform immediately.”

One man testifying stated he uses the app Rover to find pet sitters for his three animals for extended periods of time. He told the committee “I am especially alarmed about this bill” and that Rover should be able to “leverage comprehensive background checks” to prevent pet sitters with a history of animal abuse from being hired.

“I really don’t want to have to worry about additional danger from ordinances like this,” he said.

Another aspect of the proposal that has raised concerns is what Laura Curtis with app-based food delivery company DoorDash described to the committee as “extensive disclosure requirements” in which a worker whose account is deactivated receives information from the employer related to the complaint made against them.

She said that even if personal information is redacted before being sent, it could still contain enough data to “potentially spur unsafe escalations or retaliations,” leading to situations where customers choose not to report misconduct out of fear.

That apprehension was shared by Tyson. “This problem is rare but must be taken seriously.”

TechNet’s Washington and Northwest Executive Director Ashley Sutton also told the committee the ordinance contains “significant privacy concerns for businesses and customers.”

“App-based workers are rarely deactivated, but when they are businesses must retain the ability to act quickly to address safety concerns.”

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