Washington’s department of Labor and Industries just announced that businesses that violate Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to re-open Washington state’s economy in phases may be cited and fined for unsafe workplace conditions, according to new emergency rules filed today, May 26.
The new rules, filed by L&I, stipulate that the department can levy a closure order on businesses that “are operating illegally,” a press release stated. If those businesses decline to close, they can receive a fine of nearly $10,000.
“We’re all in this together, and most businesses are doing the right thing for our state and our communities. Unfortunately, there are some that are choosing not to,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a press release. “The coronavirus is a known workplace hazard and businesses must follow the requirements to keep their workers and the public safe.”
“It’s not fair to employers who are following the law when other businesses defy it,” the release continued.
Tim Church, the department’s director of communications, said businesses will be contacted through a “three-step process”.
“This is more important, if you ask me — our goal is for businesses to be operating in the correct way under the current governor’s order and current phased approach. That’s why it’s a three-step process,” he said, saying the first thing L&I will do after receiving a complaint is to come out, check the situation, and discuss the complaint. “If it turns out they are violating the rules, we’re going to make sure they understand that, and we’re going to send them a letter… to reiterate what the discussion was, that they are violating a rule. The third step is to be doing some spot checks to see if the ones we’ve contacted and informed that they’re violating a rule, and sent a letter that they were violating a rule and asked them not to, then we do spot checks.”
If the spot check reveals the business remains open when it shouldn’t, or if they’re performing work they’re not supposed to be performing, then the fine will be levied.
Businesses are able to contest these fines like they would any other L&I fine.
Church added that L&I highly recommends any complaints previously filed against a business should be re-filed, as the department is not going to go back through past complaints and perform check-ups.
“We not going to go backwards in time,” he said.
An online form for people to report suspected violations of the Governor’s orders is available at https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/09349a1c56844b539fea1c2cabd16d56?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery. This form can be used to report non-essential businesses opening, restaurants allowing dine-in services, businesses not following social distancing rules, large gatherings, and more.
If you’re unfamiliar with the essential business guidelines, visit https://coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed/essential-business.