Seattle Times Closing North Creek Facility

The Seattle Times,  the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, is closing its North Creek Facility in Bothell, WA. The Seattle Times closing of this facility has led to a reported layoff of 42 employees, as noted in a recent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) filing with Washington State.

Expected beginning date of separations is March 2, 2020. Staff from the local rapid response team and WorkSource center will perform outreach to employees of the organization to ease the transition.

Production activities at the North Creek Plant in Bothell included newsprint roll storage and conveyance, printing, packaging, and truck loading. Printing operations previously performed at the site have moved to another Seattle Times-owned facility in Kent, WA.

The Seattle Times North Creek Facility property is listed for sale, with an asking price of $45,000,000. As of this writing, the property is listed as Pending on the Windermere Commercial Real Estate site. It is not yet known the amount of the actual sale.

In a detailed article from April, 2019 by Seattle Times real estate reporter Mike Rosenberg, The Seatte Times explained that proceeds from this sale would be put towards funding news operations, as well as paying down debt at the Bothell, WA facility and funding pension obligations.

Photo credit: Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

Prior post about Snohomish County layoffs: MCKESSON CLOSING EVERETT SHOP IN JUNE

Back Wages Owed by Construction Company

Construction company must pay nearly $100,000 in back wages, and over $28,000 in fines.

The owner of a Maple Valley construction company must pay several employees nearly $100,000 in back wages for work on a Tacoma public housing project.

The state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited Alejandro Sandoval for not paying the required wages and failure to file payroll records. He faces being barred from bidding on any future public projects until the workers are paid.

Sandoval has appealed the L&I citation. Late last month, the Office of Administrative Hearings scheduled the appeal for Aug. 10-14, 2020.

Sandoval Construction was hired to perform wall and roof framing and other carpentry work on the Valhalla Apartment Project for the City of Tacoma in 2017. In all, 25 workers are owed a little more than $92,500 in back wages because the company didn’t pay the required rate of $40.66 per hour for residential carpenters. The company also owes $28,500 in fines.

“This company has an established history of not paying workers what they’re owed,” said Jim Christensen, L&I’s Prevailing Wage Program manager. “We had to take this action after years of educating the company about their requirements under state law.”

A history of problems

After a 2016 investigation, Sandoval pleaded guilty last year to false reporting and first-degree theft in a separate construction case. He owed a dozen workers more than $25,000 in unpaid wages involving framing of residential projects in Seattle and King County. Under separate civil proceedings, he also owed at least $197,000 in unpaid workers’ compensation insurance premiums, interest and penalties. As a result of plea agreements signed earlier this year, the company repaid the wages and is on a plan to repay $35,000 in premiums by June 2020.

Details of recent investigation

The recent investigation started in January 2018. L&I found Sandoval filed paperwork that stated only nine workers were employed on the project, and that Sandoval did not file other required payroll records. The 25 workers are owed between $20 and $9,500 each, depending on how long they worked on the project.

“Sandoval deliberately tried to circumvent record-keeping rules and cut corners in paying his workers,” Christensen said. “He issued checks that bounced, also leaving employees faced with paying bank fees.”

The Valhalla Apartment Project, on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in the Hilltop Neighborhood, includes retail space. RAFN Company was the prime contractor.

The state’s prevailing wage law is triggered when construction projects use public funds. The law covers workers on schools, roads, and other types of public projects. L&I enforces the law, which protects workers from substandard earnings and preserves local wage standards. The law also ensures contractors have a level playing field when bidding on public projects.

Prior post: BELLEVUE, WA FIRM BARRED FROM PUBLIC PROJECTS; FAILED TO PAY $140,000 TO WORKERS

Paid Family and Medical Leave Begins Jan 2, 2020

Workers and some employers in Washington State began paying into the Paid Family and Medical Leave program in January 2019. As of January 2, 2020, applications will be processed for the payment of benefits.

When Can Paid Leave Be Taken?

There are three main types of paid leave available, each related to a different type of qualifying event: medical leave, family leave, or military leave.

Nearly every Washington worker can qualify for paid leave as long as they worked a minimum of 820 hours (about 16 hours a week) in Washington during the qualifying period, which is about the last year. The 820 hours can be at one job or combined from multiple jobs.

When you take paid leave, you will receive up to 90 percent of your weekly pay—up to a maximum of $1,000 a week. Use the online calculator to estimate how much your weekly pay would be.

Get More Information and Apply Online

You can find all the details about Paid Family and Medical Leave on the State’s website, www.paidleave.wa.gov.

Find out more about WA’s Paid Family and Medical Leave

Read related articles:

WASHINGTON PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE HAS ARRIVED

NATIONAL PAID FAMILY LEAVE DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS WASHINGTON’S NEW PROGRAM

Temp-A-Cure Inc. fined for non-permitted work In WA

Temp-A-Cure, an out-of-state contractor, was fined more than $60,000 for electrical violations at 22 homes across Washington State.

Temp-A-Cure Inc. of Oregon City, Ore., received a $63,600 fine for working without an electrical license, having no electrical permits for the work, and employing unlicensed electricians as installers. L&I also fined three Temp-A-Cure employees a total of $5,000 for working without an electrical license.

In its investigation, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) noted this is the third time the firm has violated Washington law.

“This is an example of an out-of-state company unlicensed for electrical work hiring unqualified people for non-permitted projects,” said Steve Thornton, L&I chief electrical inspector. “The result takes work from honest businesses and contractors licensed in Washington, and creates a danger to public safety.”

Neither the company nor the employees appealed the violations by the December deadline. Temp-A-Cure and two employees now have until next month to pay the fines or face having their fines go to a private collection agency, which could significantly increase their costs, Thornton noted. The third employee has paid the fine.

The homes are located in Vancouver, Camas, Washougal, Walla Walla, Pasco, and Kennewick. The work involved replacing furnace and air conditioning units.

Temp-A-Cure had previous run-ins with L&I in 2017 and earlier this year. Those violations were also for performing electrical work without a valid electrical license.

Hire smart. L&I can help

Thornton said another company contacted L&I to complain about bidding for a job that Temp-A-Cure won in Walla Walla. Thornton cautioned people to hire smart when looking for contractors to work on a home, including getting three written bids, and verifying the contractor’s electrical license.

To find out whether a contractor is licensed, has an up-to-date workers’ compensation account, or has any safety violations pending, go to L&I’s ‘verify’ web page. Find more tips on checking bids on L&I’s Protect My Home web page.

L&I uses a special group of inspectors, called the Electrical Compliance, Outreach, Regulation, and Education (ECORE) team, for its investigations. In fiscal year 2019, ECORE issued 3,766 violations against unlicensed contractors and uncertified electricians, working without permits, and failing to properly supervise trainees. ECORE collected more than $1.8 million in penalties.

Health Benefit Exchange Extension

Get the coverage you need for 2020 through the Health Benefit Exchange!

Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) announced that it will provide additional time for customers purchasing 2020 health insurance coverage. This will give those still needing health insurance until Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. to secure coverage that would start Feb. 1 through Washington Healthplanfinder.

The toll-free Customer Support Center (1-855-923-4633) is available Dec. 16 through Dec. 30from 7:30a.m. to 8p.m. Monday through Friday —except holidays—to provide help signing up for coverage beginning Feb. 1. Additionally, in-person help will continue to be available at eleven full-service enrollment centers or through navigators and brokers located throughout the state and may be found using the WAPlanfinder app or online at Washington Healthplanfinder by clicking on the “Customer Support” tab.

Health Benefit Exchange Resources

Visit the Exchange for a complete step-by-step list of the application process from start to finish or a downloadable checklist

Customer Support Center Hours
 Monday – Friday, Dec. 16 – 30 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
 Tuesday, Dec. 24 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
 Wednesday, Dec. 25 Closed
 Tuesday, Dec. 31 Closed

As of Dec. 15 more than 209,000 completed their 2020 health plan selection through Washington Healthplanfinder, including more than 36,000 new enrollees.

Customers who have selected their health and dental coverage for next year should expect to receive a bill for payment of their first month’s premium. Information on submitting a premium payment is available by clicking the “Make Your Payment” on Washington Healthplanfinder.

See Related Article:

WASHINGTON HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE LOCATIONS FOR OPEN ENROLLMENT

Monte Cristo Ballroom Hit With wage theft Charges

The state Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced they have filed wage theft charges on December 16, 2019 against the Monte Cristo Ballroom LLC, of Everett, WA, and its owner, Anthony Reeves.

Deductions from Pay Led to Wage Theft Charges

The complaint, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court, stems from Reeves’ taking a $2.99 “meal” charge from 156 employees during each shift worked between December 2016-April 2019. The Monte Cristo owner was taking the money from workers’ paychecks without their permission, in return for allowing them to eat extra food from catered events — whether the workers wanted to eat the food or not.

In all, the deductions covered 4,100 shifts and totaled $12,386.86.

“Employers do not have the right to deduct whatever they want from their employees’ paychecks without their consent,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “If you have concerns about deductions on your paycheck, you should reach out to the Department of Labor & Industries. When Washington workers’ rights are violated, L&I and my office will partner to enforce the law.”

Double Damages and Attorney Fees Sought

Only deductions authorized under law or taken with advance written permission of the employee are allowed. Even with permission, the deductions must benefit the worker, not the employer. Because the deductions were intentional, the state is asking for double the damages and attorney fees.

“Reeves took money workers earned and used it for his own benefit,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said. “Working with the Attorney General’s Office gives us additional tools to stand up for employees and make sure they’re being treated fairly. While the amount of money taken from individual workers each shift may seem relatively small, in the end it added up to thousands of dollars that should have gone to employees and their families and not into the owner’s pockets.”

Employees filed complaints

The Monte Cristo Ballroom LLC, 1507 Wall St. in Everett, stopped operating in October. Since the sudden closure, more workers have filed wage complaints with L&I.

The business has had a history of wage complaints. From 2015-19, there were 10 complaints filed against the company for just over $3,300 in wages.

L&I attempted to settle with Monte Cristo for the wages owed workers. An agreement drafted in September set out a payment schedule through October 2020, and ordered the restaurant to stop taking money for employee meals without the employee’s consent. Reeves never signed the final document.

L&I oversees the state’s wage-and-hour laws. The agency investigates all wage-payment complaints. More information on wages or filing a complaint is available on L&I’s wage and hour webpage (www.Lni.wa.gov/wages). Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.

Read a related article: WAGE THEFT CASE RESULTS IN BIG SETTLEMENT

Photo Credit: Sabel Blanco

Neck and Shoulder injurIes – Which is it, or is it both?

Neck and shoulder injuries can present with physical symptoms which could be caused by either a neck or shoulder injury. Diagnosis can be complicated if the injured person reports that they suffered an injury to their neck or shoulder because that is where they feel the ache or pain. In fact, it could be one or the other, or both.

An aching shoulder may not be due to the shoulder, and a sore neck may not indicate a neck issue. The neck and shoulder are intimately connected by multiple nerve pathways and injuries in one area often results in referred pain to the other. Thus the importance of a thorough medical exam of both neck and shoulder by your doctor is key to getting an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment program.

Work-related complaints of the arm, neck and shoulder develop as a result of repetitive movements, awkward postures and impact of external forces such as work with vibrating tools. These conditions severely hamper the working population, and in WA state, lost work days due to neck, arm, and shoulder represent 60% of workers’ compensation claims (WA L&I).

Our firm has encountered many cases where an incomplete diagnosis early after an injury led to legal complications down the road when an effort was made to obtain allowance of an additional condition under a claim. Often, the initial diagnosis is a shoulder injury but only later is it discovered that a neck injury is also involved. Now, the Department of Labor and Industries, through its ongoing program of medical education seminars, will address this common dilemma – is it the neck, or the shoulder?

The Occupational and Environmental Medicine Grand Rounds Lecture series will cover this topic on February 20, 2020 in Seattle, with a simultaneous viewing event in Olympia. Read the full release, here, for more information, including details about the two physicians that will speak at the event. This lecture may be of interest to you, even if you are not a doctor. The cost is only $50 and includes a light meal.

Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Violations

Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Hazard Alert

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued a Hazard Alert in June 2019 discussing roles, responsibilities, and procedures during tower crane erection and dismantling. Read the full DOSH Hazard Alert: Roles, responsibilities, and procedures during the erection and dismantling of tower cranes.

The hazard alert was issued in response to an April 27, 2019 incident where a construction tower crane collapsed in Seattle, Washington while being dismantled, fatally injuring two workers and two members of the public.

Violations Result in Fines

The Department of Labor and Industries completed it’s investigation in October 2019. During the investigation, it was found that the conditions leading up to the collapse may not have been an isolated event, but was due to procedures that have been practiced throughout the industry.

The state issued citations to: GLY Construction, Northwest Tower Crane Service, and Morrow Equipment, totaling over $107,000.00. The state did not cite two other companies involved, Omega Morgan and Seaburg Construction.

New Safety Regulations – DOSH Directive 8.55

On November 4, 2019, DOSH issued Directive, 8.55 – Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Violations which clarified the rules for the erection and dismantling of tower cranes, and established a willful penalty classification for specific tower crane erection/dismantling safety violations.

The April 2019 accident, which was found to have been “totally avoidable,” prompted the state to craft and implement the new regulations outlined in Directive 8.55.

This directive includes enforcement instructions for Compliance Officers who inspect tower cranes worksites to ensure employers provide an assembly/disassembly director and follow the manufacturer’s written procedures when erecting and dismantling tower cranes. Directive 8.55 also creates a willful violation classification, allowing for increased penalties in cases where safety is compromised.

WAC 296-155-53402 sets out the rules for safety practices when assembling and disassembling a crane/derrick.

Tower crane erection and dismantling presents safety hazards.

When the DOSH Compliance Crane Unit documents violations of either WAC 296-155-53402 (1) or WAC 296-155-53402 (17)(a) through (d) on a tower crane erection or dismantling site, the violation will be classified as willful and the penalty will be multiplied by 10.

More Information

For more information about the April 2019 accident, the Department of Labor and Industries investigation, and the citations issued, look to The Seattle Times coverage, including:

Ports of Seattle and Tacoma Seek Technology Growth

Planned technology growth at the Port of Seattle, including Elliott Bay and Fisherman’s Terminal facilities, as well as the Port of Tacoma, will improve services for cruise ships, cargo ships and shipping vessels. Several projects are underway, including expansion of capacity for larger cargo vessels in Tacoma, additional cruise ship capacity in Seattle, support for larger fishing vessels in Seattle, as well as dock upgrades and increased light-industrial space for maritime uses at Fisherman’s Terminal.

In-Depth Article Describes Technology Growth Plans

WorkBoat’s Kirk Moore has written an extensive article based on interviews with port planners, offering insight into the many-faceted plans for technology growth in our area. Read his full article, excerpted below, here. It’s a good read. Mr. Moore describes the Ports’ ideas for innovation:

Port planners are looking for ways to synthesize that tech strength with the city’s legacy maritime industries. One step is a “maritime innovation center” to be co-located with the new north end improvements, with $10.55 million in funding including $5 million from the state of Washington.

The center will be a home for the “blue tech sector,” a space to support emerging maritime technology and workforce development. The idea is modeled on centers in Iceland and the Netherlands, including Port XL, a “maritime accelerator” in Rotterdam. There are 60 different tech accelerator programs in Seattle. Not one of them is focused on maritime.

Maritime Innovation Center Could Transform Fisherman’s Terminal

The Port of Seattle’s post about the proposed Maritime Innovation Center is sparse, but the concept of a facility such as this at Fisherman’s Terminal is quite interesting. It could spark a revitalization of the surrounding area, supporting businesses and drawing those with interest in maritime trades and activities.

A similar program has been in place in Port Townsend with the Northwest Maritime Center. It has become an anchor to the revitalized waterfront downtown neighborhood. It also has become a hub for learning and sharing traditional boat-centric skills, from sailing to boat building.

The Port of Seattle is in the second year of a five-year investment plan designed to make our region a competitive maritime hub. The ideas for technology growth are a big component in these plans.

Best Plan for Black Friday: Buy Health Insurance!

Open enrollment brings more health insurance plans, changing prices.

Washington residents buying health insurance coverage on Healthplanfinder should shop by December 15.

Many Washington residents seeking health insurance coverage on Washington Healthplanfinder will see more options and changing prices when shopping this year.   

This is happening because of new market entrants who are offering lower cost plans at all metal tiers. The result is that some residents will see changes to their tax credit as well as the opportunity to find new, lower cost plan options when buying coverage on the state’s marketplace.

Review Plans, You May Find Lower Priced Options

“Given the arrival of new plans to the health insurance landscape, we are encouraging existing customers to review their current options and make sure their plan meets their needs and budget,” explained Chief Marketing Officer Michael Marchland. “The lower priced silver plans mean changes to the tax credit available to qualified customers and this may be reflected in their 2020 premiums.”

Tax credits are calculated based on the premium of the second lowest cost silver plan available to consumers that plan year. This year, new lower priced plans are available in several counties, which means consumers may see a smaller tax credit for 2020 then they had last year. However, this may be offset by the availability of new plans with lower premiums.

The Exchange highly encourages customers to update their information, take advantage of their resources, and shop plans as other affordable options may be available starting November 1. To find the Navigator or  broker  nearest you: use the WAPlanfinder app or go to Washington Healthplanfinder.

Available resources for coverage

Chat will provide customers a platform to talk directly with customer support representatives—in English and Spanish—during business hours when they are logged into their user account.

Before Starting the Application Process

NOTE: The application process uses your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) figure for your household when establishing your entitlement levels and options. MAGI does NOT include workers’ compensation benefits (or Veteran’s benefits, or SSI benefits, and more). See a list of income types that are included and excluded, here, before you begin the application process.

Make sure you’re on the right site: WAHealthplanFinder.org. There are non-governmental sites with VERY similar looking website addresses – don’t be fooled into entering your private information into the wrong site!

If you’re a morning person, get a cup of coffee. If you’re a night owl, get a cup of coffee. Sign into your account each time you go onto the site. If you need to take a break, save your work and it will be there when you later log back in.

Gather all your information:

  • Legal names of all household members
  • Birthdates for household members
  • Home and mailing address
  • Social Security Number or immigration documents (Families which include unlawfully present immigrants may still apply)
  • Income information (recent pay stubs, tax return, or W-2)
  • Tax filing status
  • Current health plan information
  • Tribal membership (if enrolled in a federally recognized tribe)

Visit the Exchange for a complete step-by-step list of the application process from start to finish or a downloadable checklist

Exchange Customer Support Available

See our prior post, WASHINGTON HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE LOCATIONS FOR OPEN ENROLLMENT, for more information.

Open enrollment for 2020 plans begins November 1 through December 15.  During this time the Exchange Customer Support call center based in Spokane Valley will be open normal operating hours and ready to receive calls from 7:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Monday – Friday.  Additionally, extended hours scheduled:

Published by Causey Wright