By Helen M. McFarland and Amanda J. Hailey

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) issued its first citation against an employer for violating Washington’s Safe Start Order.

As set forth in our May 28, 2020 blog postProhibited Business Activities and Conditions for Operations,” the State of Washington is enforcing its Emergency COVID-19 Safety Rules.

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) recently issued its first citation to a fitness gym that operated in violation of Governor Inslee’s Safe Start phased reopening plan. The Gym was cited and fined $9,639 for noncompliance.

The facility operates in Yakima county, which has many active cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and currently remains in Phase 1 of the Governor’s Safe Start plan. During this phase, only essential businesses and other limited operations may remain open.  L&I learned of the facility’s violations after receiving complaints and a direct referral from the Yakima Health District. The company was contacted many times before L&I went out to conduct its investigation.

Employees at Washington’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) have been contacting businesses about compliance with the rules. When employers refuse to follow the Safe Start plan, L&I may send a warning letter to let the business know that it is at risk of being fined if it remains open. Employers who remain in noncompliance may receive a visit from a Department of Occupational Health (DOSH) inspector, who will conduct an inspection and may issue a citation.

This serves as an important reminder. Employers should not rush to re-open beyond the boundaries of Washington’s Safe Start Plan. Operating outside the plan puts businesses at risk of citations and fines.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.