Labor & Industries has enacted emergency rules to fine businesses found to be open in violation of Governor Jay Inslee’s four-phase reopening plan.
Those found in violation will be directed to close or make immediate safety adjustments. Those who do not comply will be subject to a fine of nearly $10,000 or more, according to the L&I announcement.
Businesses have been expressing increasing frustration the longer they must remain closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The closures or sales limits have resulted in record state unemployment and threaten the livelihoods of store owners. The orders began late in March as the coronavirus continued spreading through Washington State.
“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,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “The coronavirus is a known workplace hazard and businesses must follow the requirements to keep their workers and the public safe.”
The emergency rules give L&I the authority to cite businesses for being open or for operating in a way that is purposely defying the phased-in approach and, as a result, putting their workers and customers at risk.
L&I will work with the state Emergency Operations Center to take in and respond to complaints about businesses that are operating illegally.
Along with contacting businesses by phone and in writing, L&I will perform in-person spot checks on some of the businesses to make sure they are following through and complying with Inslee’s Safe Start requirements.
Inslee has gradually been allowing counties with lower populations to apply for approval for Phase 2 status that allows stores to move from curbside sales to limited shoppers inside that do not exceed 30% of store capacity. More urban counties have been held back by more frequent incidents of virus infections.
The nature of the outbreak changes daily so it’s important for everyone to have the most current information. L&I has a COVID-19 webpage, and there’s important information on the state Coronavirus Response (COVID-19) site. There’s also an online form for people to report suspected violations of the Governor’s orders regarding essential business functions, evictions, and social distancing.