All posts by Kit Case

Mask Wearing Is Now Required in WA State

Mask wearing is now required in Washington State. Governor Inslee implemented a new statewide requirement that all residents wear masks in public. On June 23rd, Governor Inslee announced a new statewide requirement that all Washingtonians and visitors to the State wear facemasks or coverings in indoor public places such as stores, offices and restaurants. The order also requires that face coverings be used in outdoor settings where people cannot stay six feet apart from people not of their own household.

Governor Inslee’s order follows significant increases in the COVID-19 transmission rate throughout Washington. Yakima County is currently a hotspot, with a rate of COVID-19 spread in that is 27 times that of King County. The Governor has paused the process for counties to enter Phase 4, due to increases seen in case numbers across the State. This pause effects even the 7 counties where the data would otherwise support entering the final phase of reopening, which has essentially no restrictions on activities or business.

Skagit County has also seen an increase in transmission over the last several weeks. According to a notice from Skagit Public Health, this increase is primarily due to unauthorized social gatherings, travel and transmission between coworkers. Skagit County is currently in Phase 2.

As more and more people return to work, begin eating out in restaurants again, and seeing friends and family, the importance of taking precautions against the spread of the Coronavirus increases. Mask wearing is a simple precaution that almost everyone can implement. There are exceptions for those who are not medically able, are deaf and/or hard of hearing, and children under 5 years of age.  Everyone else should wear a mask.

There is ambiguity when the order states that mask wearing is required outdoors when you cannot be at least six feet apart from other people. This can be hard to maintain in the city, where you likely should wear the mask anytime you’re walking down the street. But, even is out on a hiking trail, you should be prepared to put a mask on when you come into contact with others.

The mask wearing requirement went into effect on Friday, June 26, 2020. Willful noncompliance is a misdemeanor offense. You can find further information on the Washington state Coronavirus website.

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King County Enters Phase Two

As King County enters Phase Two, many workers will be returning to their jobs. King County entered Phase Two of the Safe Start plan for reopening on June 19th. Under the Safe Start plan, many more types of businesses can reopen in some fashion. Read the full notice, here.

Some of the types of businesses that can reopen as King County enters Phase Two include:

  • Card rooms: All card rooms are subject to Phase 2 guidance which generally restricts the card room designated area to the lesser of 25% capacity or 50 individuals. The restaurants or taverns area of the facility is required to follow the Phase 2 guidance, which restricts capacity to 50% and prohibits bar service. Games are also limited to 25% occupancy per table. Limitations on capacity does not include staff.
  • Restaurants and taverns: All restaurant and tavern operations are subject to Phase 2 guidance which prohibits any bar seating and restricts indoor customer occupancy to 50% of a building’s occupancy or lower as determined by the fire code. Outdoor dining is allowed at 50% of capacity and does not count toward the building occupancy limit; additional outdoor seating will be allowed provided it follows Public Health – Seattle & King County’s best practices and a restaurant secures any municipal permit that may be required.
  • Real estate (residential and commercial): All real estate activities are subject to Phase 2 guidance which generally restricts out of office activities to appointment only and with no more than three people; office activities require reservations for in-person customer services and guest occupancy is limited to 50% of a building’s occupancy.
  • Personal services: Includes Cosmetologists, Hairstylists, Barbers, Estheticians, Master Estheticians, Manicurists, Nail Salon Workers, Electrologists, Permanent Makeup Artists, Tattoo Artists, Cosmetology Schools and Esthetics Schools. Limitations: All personal services are subject to Phase 2 guidance which restricts customer occupancy to 50% with the exception of one to one services in an enclosed room.
  • Domestic services: Includes any worker (hourly, salaried, independent contractor, full-time, part-time, or temporary) who is paid by one or more employer and provides domestic services to an individual or household in/about a private home as a nanny, house cleaner, cook, private chef, or household manager. Limitations: All domestic services are subject to Phase 2 guidance.
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Which Mask for Which Task – DLI News

New workplace mask guidance helps determine Which Mask for Which Task

Most workers in Washington have to wear a mask or face covering at work under new coronavirus workplace safety and health requirements that took effect June 8th.

With some exceptions, workers must wear some type of face covering or mask to help limit the spread of the coronavirus to those around them. Other higher-risk jobs may require respirators to protect the worker from infection by patients or clients.

Under the requirements, employers must provide the face coverings and masks to employees at no charge. Workers can bring their own face coverings and masks as well, as long as they meet requirements.

Which mask for which task

The new Department of Labor & Industries (DLI) guidance document describes various types of jobs based on the level of risk to workers, from negligible risk to extremely high. The publication spells out which face-covering, mask, or respirator is required for that task.

Along with details about the appropriate protective face covering, the guidance also includes photos to help workers and employers identify the type of mask required.

“We know that choosing the correct face covering, mask or respirator can be confusing. It’s a new experience for most employers and people on the job,” said DLI Assistant Director Anne Soiza. “This guidance should help employers and workers understand the risk level for various tasks, and make the right choice to protect workers from the coronavirus. Employers needing assistance can call on our statewide consultants for help.”

Exceptions to mask requirements

There are some limited exceptions to the workplace requirements for masks and face coverings. For example, someone working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a jobsite with no in-person interactions is not required to wear a face covering or mask.

Other exceptions include workers who are deaf or hard of hearing, or a person on the job who communicates with someone who relies on language cues such as facial markers and expression and mouth movements as a part of communication. A worker with a medical condition or disability that makes wearing a facial covering inappropriate is also exempt from the requirement.

New training and information

DLI has developed a training template that employers can use to meet requirements to train employees about coronavirus. It covers numerous topics including symptoms, transmission, face coverings and worker rights. The training is available in English and Spanish online.

The nature of the outbreak changes daily, so it’s important for everyone to have the most current information. DLI 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.

Information is the best resource to protect workers and the public. DLI urges employers to stay as informed as possible, and to take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.

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Potato Product Producer Posts Layoffs

Global potato product producer Lamb Weston has posted its intention to layoff over 600 workers in Washington State, effective June 15th. Washington’s Employment Security Department issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) on June 8th.

Lamb Weston is one of the world’s largest frozen potato product producer companies. It provides potato products to restaurants and food service businesses, large and small. Think anything potato – mashed potatoes, baby red potatoes, french fries, waffle fries, tater tots, sweet potato fries, even deep-fried pickle spears – and you’re likely to think of a Lamb Weston product.

The WARN notice indicated that the number of workers affected would be 360 in Connell and 300 in Warden, both home to Lamb Weston potato processing plants.

Warden, WA, population 2,692, is a small town in Grant County, WA approximately 20 miles SE of Moses Lake. Connell, with a population of 5,566, is another 30 miles SE of Warden, in Franklin County. The Lamb Weston layoffs represent a job loss of 11% for Warden and 6.5% for Connell, which is also home to the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

The Employment Security Department will send staff from the local rapid response team and the WorkSource center to perform outreach to employees of Lamb Weston to ease the transition.

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Appeal Proceedings will be by Remote Access Through July.

All Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals appeal proceedings will be by remote access through July. The Board has extended the period of time that Board offices will remain closed to the public due to the Coronavirus.

If you have proceedings set through July 3rd, there should be no need to change them. Any court proceedings scheduled as in-person events during the July 3 – July 31 extension period will need to be addressed.

Board judges will typically handle proceedings by telephone conference calls. In certain circumstances, the judge may opt for video conferencing using a third-party service, CourtCall. This is usually for the purpose of hearings, where evidence and testimony is presented, rather than more informal procedural events.

Conferences and Hearings to Be Adjusted

Board judges will reach out to those parties with events in July. The judge will ask if they can convert the proceedings from live to remote-access events. In the event that a party is aggrieved that the appeal proceedings will be remote, a request can be made for the case to be continued to a later date. This would most likely be in the case of a hearing. This decision is at the judge’s discretion. Any rescheduled event date is subject to the availability of the judges and parties and will likely cause a delay in proceedings.

More Information and Assistance

Appeal proceedings will be by remote access through July 31st. More information about this process can be found on the Board’s website. If you have an appeal pending, you may also contact the judge assigned to your case, or their assistant.

We often suggest that claimants have legal representation when their case is on appeal. This may be especially true when appeal proceedings will be remote access. Feel free to contact our firm for assistance with your case. We offer a free analysis of your case and will give you our opinion on whether you need legal assistance, or not, and how we recommend you proceed.

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Boeing Lay-Offs Hit WA State – Round One

The Boeing Company began a planned series of lay-offs last week in Washington State. The Boeing lay-offs will effect primarily engineers and machinists, eliminating many union jobs.

Engineers and technical professionals at Boeing are represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA). Machinists are represented by The International Association of Machinists (IAM).

Photo by mag3737 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

IAM Local 751 has posted a list of 3,792 jobs included in the initial round of Boeing lay-offs. The list is broken down by job positions and includes the seniority cut-off dates, as they were known on the date of posting, in an effort to help their members anticipate the impact on their individual jobs.

SPEEA Local 2001 writes that The Boeing Company last week notified 1,239 SPEEA-represented employees that they are being laid off. The break down shows 697 employees in the Professional unit and 542 employees in the Technical unit are being released. 

Boeing lay-offs will be combined with voluntary separations, such as buy-outs or early retirements. In total, the initial round of job cuts will reduce Boeings employee roster by approximately 10,000 people.

Through the combination of buy-outs and lay-offs, SPEEA will lose about 1,500 engineers (12%) and 1,000 technical staff (21%). IAM will lose about 5,000 machinists (16%). In addition, about 2,500 nonunion employees will also lose their jobs.

The Seattle Times published an article by aerospace reporter Dominic Gates, on May 29th, which outlines the distribution of job cuts across the region, and provides a detailed analysis of the Boeing programs impacted. Mr. Gates reports that the cuts will impact the commercial airplanes division. Boeing’s defense programs continue to do well.

CNBC also published an article about the Boeing job cuts, on May 28th, by Leslie Josephs. Ms. Josephs noted that the Coronavirus has driven down demand for air travel, hurting the airline and leasing customers Boeing relies on. 

The CNBC article also notes that The Boeing Company had already been struggling with the aftermath of two crashes of its 737 Max planes, grounding the planes worldwide. Cancellations of orders are now piling up. Boeing posts updates on the 737 Max program and the latest information on Boeing’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on it’s website.

Boeing has indicated it’s need to reduce it’s workforce, reported to be roughly 160,000 people, by about 10%. This and other steps to reduce expenditures are needed as it deals with an unprecedented downturn in business combined with it’s struggle to gain approval for flight of the 737 Max planes after repairs were made to the systems involved in the crashes.

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Guidance For Rideshare, Taxi, and Car Service Workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance for rideshare, taxi, and car service workers. This guidance is meant to provide both workers and passengers with increased safety during the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition, OSHA has provided guidance for drivers transporting medical patients with known or suspected COVID-19.

Guidance for Employers in the Car Service Industry

For employers in the car service industry (rideshare, taxi, and other car services), the following tips can help reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus:

  • Encourage drivers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure vehicle door handles and inside surfaces are routinely cleaned and disinfected with Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus.
  • Advise drivers to lower vehicle windows to increase airflow.
  • Allow drivers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent spread of the virus, and ask customers to do the same.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol for both drivers and customers.
  • Provide drivers with disposable towels and Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus for disinfecting surfaces.
  • Provide drivers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Limit the number of passengers drivers can transport at a single time, and install plexiglass partitions between driver and passenger compartments where possible.
  • Encourage drivers to report any safety and health concerns.
Special Precautions for Drivers Transporting Patients to Health Care Facilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also provides guidance for rideshare, taxi, and car service workers. OSHA considers “Medical transport workers (e.g., ambulance vehicle operators) moving known or suspected COVID-19 patients in enclosed vehicles” to be at high risk for exposure.

If you are transporting medical customers, take the following precautions:

  • Be sure to have alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol content and use it often.
  • It is recommended that you wear personal protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and a face mask. It is important to replace your disposable gloves and face mask after every medical customer.
  • If you are transporting a patient that is known to or is suspected to have COVID-19, OSHA recommends that you wear a respirator. You may also want to wear a gown and a face shield or goggles if you help customers in and out of the car.
  • After helping a medical passenger out of the car, you should remove all protective equipment and wash your hands or use high alcohol content hand sanitizer before getting back into your car.
  • Speak to your company administration about providing personal protective equipment if they have not provided it.
More Information

For more information, visit www.osha.gov/coronavirus or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

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Businesses Ignoring Pandemic Closure Orders can be Cited and Fined

Washington businesses ignoring pandemic closure orders and deciding to open or operate in direct violation of Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order may be cited and fined for unsafe workplace conditions under emergency rules filed May 26, 2020 by the state Department of Labor and Industries (DLI).

The closure order and the Safe Start Plan to reopen businesses are in place to keep workers and the public safe and to prevent the spread of the easily transmissible coronavirus.

The emergency rules, enacted at the direction of the Governor, take effect immediately. They give DLI 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 at risk.

“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 DLI Director Joel Sacks. “The coronavirus is a known workplace hazard and businesses must follow the requirements to keep their workers and the public safe.”

Protecting worker safety and ensuring a level playing field

DLI will work with the state Emergency Operations Center to take in and respond to complaints about businesses ignoring pandemic closure orders and operating illegally. If employers are found to be defying the Governor’s order, they’ll be informed and directed to close or adjust operations immediately. If they do not, they’ll face a workplace safety citation that could carry a fine of nearly $10,000 or more.

Along with contacting businesses by phone and in writing, DLI will perform in-person spot checks on some of the businesses to make sure they are following through and complying with the Safe Start requirements. It’s not fair to employers who are following the law when other businesses defy it. DLI’s role will complement efforts by the Liquor and Cannabis Board and other state licensing and permitting agencies.

Stay informed

The nature of the outbreak changes daily so it’s important for everyone to have the most current information. DLI 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.

Information is the best resource to protect workers and the public. DLI urges employers to stay as informed as possible, and to take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.

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Airline Safety for Workers and Passengers

Airline safety for workers and passengers is critical if we are ever to return to prior levels of travel. Overall, airline travel has been reduced due to COVID-19 concerns by 90% or more. Delta airlines, one of the world’s largest air carriers and employers, has implemented many changes to protect both passengers and employees from the coronavirus.

We are sharing the information published by Delta for your information. You can see Delta’s safety protocols here. Other airlines may have different procedures and protocols – check with your carrier for more information.

Safety Starts at Check-In

When passengers check in, they are required to wear a mask until they reach their destination. Delta’s employees will be wearing them as well . Surfaces are wiped down throughout the day, starting with kiosks and baggage stations. Delta will have plexiglass shields in place at check-in and gate counters by the end of May. Passengers will be encouraged to maintain a safe distance with decals at check-in, at the gate and on all Delta-owned jet bridges. 

Gate Areas and Onboard Aircraft

Delta gate areas and jet bridges are disinfected with electrostatic spraying. Before passengers board, Delta employees follow an extensive cleaning checklist with authority to hold the flight for additional cleaning if they aren’t satisfied. This includes safely sanitizing each aircraft with electrostatic spraying before every flight and wiping down tray tables and seatback screens.

Boarding will occur from back to front and be limited to 10 customers at a time to minimize contact with others. Snack bags with a sanitizing wipe will be distributed at boarding on select flights to reduce onboard service touch points. Every Delta flight is capped at 60 percent capacity and middle seats are blocked for protection.

Delta state that the air on all aircraft is completely recirculated 10 to 30 times per hour with fresh, outside air or through industrial-grade HEPA filters with similar performance to those used in hospital operating rooms and other highly sensitive environments. Announcements will also encourage passengers to take time when deplaning to create distance for those ahead to exit. 

Airline Safety for Workers and Passengers

Airline safety for workers and passengers is equally important. Not only are all onboard employees sharing the risk to provide service, but other workers associated with plane travel are, as well. Baggage handlers, shuttle drivers, rental car agents, TSA screeners and every worker in between is sharing this risk to keep essential travel moving.

Many passengers are also employees, traveling for their own work or business needs.

More Assistance if Injury or Illness Occurs

Workers’ compensation benefits are possible for essential workers exposed to the coronavirus. This is possible for airline employees and may be true for some passengers, on a case-by-case basis.

If you have questions about a potential claim, feel free to contact our firm for assistance. We offer a free case analysis and are happy to discuss your specific circumstances with you.

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BIIA Appeal Proceedings Will be Remote Until July 3rd

All Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals appeal proceedings will be remote access until July 3rd. The Board has extended the period of time that Board offices will remain closed to the public due to the Coronavirus.

Board judges will typically handle proceedings by telephone conference calls. In certain circumstances, the judge may opt for video conferencing using a third-party service, CourtCall. This is usually for the purpose of hearings, where evidence and testimony is presented, rather than more informal procedural events.

Prior to this extension, Board judges had converted all case proceedings scheduled through May of this year to telephone or CourtCall events. If you have proceedings set through May, there should be no need to change them. Any court proceedings scheduled as in-person events during June – July 3 will need to be addressed.

Conferences and Hearings to Be Adjusted

Board judges will reach out to those parties with events in June and early July. The judge will ask if they can convert the proceedings from live to remote-access events. In the event that a party is aggrieved that the appeal proceedings will be remote, a request can be made for the case to be continued to a later date. This would most likely be in the case of a hearing. This decision is at the judge’s discretion. Any rescheduled event date is subject to the availability of the judges and parties and will likely cause a delay in proceedings.

More Information and Assistance

More information can be found on the Board’s website. If you have an appeal pending, you may also contact the judge assigned to your case, or their assistant.

We often suggest that claimants have legal representation when their case is on appeal. This may be especially true when appeal proceedings will be remote access. Feel free to contact our firm for assistance with your case. We offer a free analysis of your case and will give you our opinion on whether you need legal assistance, or not, and how we recommend you proceed.

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