Tag Archives: COVID-19

Truckers Need Face Masks, Too

Truckers need face masks. They travel alone a lot, isolated in truck cabs, often with little direct contact with other people. While this may lower their risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, they must still protect themselves and others when making even brief stops along their route.

There is no assurance that a person who talks, coughs or sneezes – or even breathes heavily – as they walk by is not infected. Many people don’t realize they are infected, because they may be infectious BEFORE they feel any symptoms.

Drivers may feel a false sense of security at familiar customer sites, truck stops or other public places. This is especially true if they don’t expect lengthy social interactions. Wearing a face mask helps keep drivers and others safe, along with social distancing and other prevention measures.

High-Risk Truckers Need Face Masks Even More

Long-haul truckers may make repeat trips to hotspot areas of the country. Traveling from one hotspot region to another, and another, puts them at increased risk for exposure to the coronavirus.

Some drivers serve clients who are operating high-risk worksites, such as meatpacking plants. Often, drivers need to wait while a trailer is loaded. At a minimum, there is interaction required to handle the paperwork when picking up or dropping off a load.

All drivers need to interact people along their journey. Truck stops often have drive-through fast-food options that allow truckers to avoid indoor dining. Some we have spoken with report that these fast-food lanes are now more crowded than usual, as the general public utilizes them to also avoid inside dining. Truckers need to keep up the pace to finish their runs on time, so may opt to go into a store or fast-food restaurant to get food rather than use the drive-throughs, increasing their risk of exposure.

Using a mask, practicing social distancing and following hand washing protocols are the best tools available to keep drivers, and their families, safe. Truckers need face masks, too.

More Information For Truckers About Face Masks

As part of the Keep Trucking Safe program, a Tip Sheet is available with information about the use of face masks for truckers. You can download the Tip Sheet here.

The Tip Sheet covers selecting the right mask, how properly use and care for the mask, and has a link for more information if use of a respirator is needed.

The Keep Trucking Safe program is run by the Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis (TIRES), a project of the Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) program of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

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BIIA Proceedings by Video/Phone Through January 2021

Proceedings by Video/Phone will be how Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals cases will be heard, through at least January 2021. Since we last wrote about this – APPEAL PROCEEDINGS WILL BE BY REMOTE ACCESS THROUGH JULY – additional options have been put in place, including Zoom proceedings.

Opening of BIIA Offices and Live Proceedings on Hold

When and how the BIIA will open their offices depends on the COVID-19 situation and guidance from Governor Inslee’s office.  On July 24, 2020, the Governor extended the Safe Start proclamation, and BIIA offices remain closed to the public at this time.

The BIIA will continue with only telephone/video proceedings through the end of January 2021.  Contact your assigned judge about using CourtCall or Zoom for video proceedings, or if you have questions about how to proceed.

More Information and Assistance

More information about the process for proceedings by video/phone can be found on the Board’s website. There is updated information for the use of Zoom for proceedings on a variety of devices, with step-by-step instructions and helpful screenshots:

If you have an appeal pending, you may also contact the judge assigned to your case, or their assistant, if you more information.

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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Observer is Allowed at IMEs

The Department of Labor and Industries (DLI) recently issued a Statement of Policy advising that an observer is allowed at IMEs. Any injured worker is allowed to bring a friend of family member to an independent medical examination (IME), except in the case of a mental health examination.

IME Firms Were Limiting Observers

We have seen several IME firms include notice of “new rules” that “observers are not allowed due to COVID-19” in their pre-exam paperwork mailed to injured workers. In response to complaints about this practice, primarily from attorneys representing injured workers, DLI has now taken action by issuing the Statement of Policy confirming that an observer is allowed at IMEs. It is unknown how many workers have had exams without observers present in the last few months before this statement was issued.

Statement of Policy – the Full Text

Pursuant to WAC 296-23-362, workers have the right to bring a friend or family member to Independent Medical Exams (IMEs), except for mental health examinations, to serve in the role of observer providing comfort and reassurance. IME firms are expected to support any worker requests for an observer during a non-mental health IME. They must also refrain from any reference, in written or spoken communication with workers, to limitations on observers during IMEs. This worker right remains in effect, and it is up to the IME firm to ensure the ability to comply with the COVID-19 safety requirements for six feet of social distancing.

Firms should obtain information in advance of the IME on whether the worker plans to bring an observer and take steps to ensure the appropriate exam room size. In the event that the firm is unable to accommodate the worker’s IME with an observer, the IME will need to be rescheduled.

What This Means for Workers

The news is simple and straightforward: an observer is allowed at IMEs to support the worker. The implementation of this policy may be more complicated.

Many of the IME firm’s exam rooms are very small. It may be difficult for them to accommodate observers and follow social distancing rules. Some IME firms may try to pivot and, instead of allowing observers, insist on video exams (this is already happening with mental health evaluations). 

We recommend the following tips:

  • all workers have an observer with them during any non-mental health IME
  • make sure social distancing rules are followed
  • do not agree to video exams under nearly any circumstances
  • file a complaint if the doctor or IME firm is not following the policy
  • promptly contact a workers’ compensation attorney with any concerns about your claim or your IME
How Can an Observer Help?

An observer cannot be a legal representative or their staff nor a doctor or their staff. The primary purpose of an observer is to provide comfort and reassurance to the worker. However, an observer can corroborate the workers’ version of events that occurred during the examination process if there is later any discrepancy arising from the physician’s written report.

We suggest that an observer:

  • listen and observe the examination without distractions
  • refrain from asking questions of the physician
  • refrain from providing answers to physician questions of the worker
  • take notes with pen and paper (use of recording devices, including phones, are not usually allowed)
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Gig Drivers Get Hazard and Sick Pay

Gig drivers are essential workers, bringing us the food and goods we’ve needed for the last six months and providing rideshare services during the pandemic. Gig drivers in Seattle recently won first-in-the-nation hazard pay and sick leave ordinances. 

The Fair Work Center announced the victory for Seattle gig delivery workers. The full announcement notice, excerpted below, can be read here.

Hazard Pay

Food delivery gig drivers are entitled to $2.50 in hazard pay for each restaurant or grocery delivery made inside the Seattle city limits. Hazard pay must be listed separately on the driver’s pay report, and paid out on top of what they would otherwise be paid. The hazard pay requirement took effect on Friday July 26th at 8:30pm, and continues for as long as the city’s official coronavirus state of emergency is in effect.

The City of Seattle (City) intends to make it clear that gig workers working for food delivery network companies have a right to receive premium pay for work performed during the COVID-19 emergency.

– Council Bill 119799

Read the full text of the Premium Pay for Gig Workers Ordinance for all of the details.

Paid Sick Days

Gig delivery drivers and Uber/Lyft drivers now have the right to take paid sick days. Drivers start off with a certain number of paid sick days based on how much they’ve worked back to October of 2019, and they will continue to accrue paid sick days going forward at a rate of 1 day for every 30 days you work. When a driver takes a paid sick day, they’ll get paid based on their average daily compensation, including tips. No doctor’s note or other documentation is required to take a sick day during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sick days law took effect on Monday, July 13th, 2020. They will continue while the state of emergency remains in place.

The definitions of “employee” and “employer” in local, state and federal law are broad, but food delivery network companies and transportation network companies rely on business models that treat gig workers as “independent contractors,” thereby creating barriers for gig workers to access paid sick and paid safe time and other employee protections.

– Council Bill 119793 

Read the full text of the Paid Sick and Safe Time for Gig Workers Ordinance for all of the details.

Who is Covered

The ordinance extends labor protections to gig drivers who typically don’t qualify for traditional benefits because they are currently classified as independent contractors.

The hazard pay ordinance applies to covered grocery and food delivery platforms operating in Seattle, including Instacart, Shipt, TaskRabbit, and Amazon Fresh. Covered restaurant delivery platforms include DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates, Caviar, and GrubHub. Sick pay applies to both grocery/food delivery drivers and rideshare drivers, such as Uber and Lyft.

Hazard pay and sick pay are temporary benefits that will continue as long as Seattle remains under a coronavirus state of emergency.

More Information

The City of Seattle Office of Labor Standards page on COVID-19 Gig Worker Protections has detailed information on both the Paid Sick and Safe Time for Gig Workers Ordinance and the Gig Worker Premium Pay Ordinance.

Help Fair Work Center Enforce the Laws

Like all Seattle labor standards, these laws apply to work done within Seattle city limits. Help Fair Work Center enforce the law — use their hazard pay tracker to let them know what you’re seeing, app by app and job by job.

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Choose the Right Face Mask

New DLI web tool helps you choose the right face mask or covering.

Most Workers Must Wear a Mask

Most workers in Washington have to wear a mask or face covering at work under 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.

Choose the Right Face Mask

Choosing the correct mask for COVID-19 prevention at work just got easier and quicker if you use Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries’ (DLI’s) new  web-based e-tool  from your mobile device or computer.

Although not intended for hospitals, clinics or other treatment facilities, the e-tool is designed to help most businesses make informed choices based on the level of risk and whether users are working alone, indoors, outdoors, or in a vehicle.

The e-tool also includes links to other helpful information including videos on how to correctly put on and remove masks, answers to common questions about masks and DLI’s “Which Mask for Which Task?” booklet.

We hope you’ll enjoy the convenience this eTool offers and share it with others in your safety network.

Where to find more info

Please visit L&I’s Coronavirus safety and health overview page for prevention materials and links to policies, requirements, and helpful resources about COVID-19 safety for healthcare professionals, agricultural workers, airline employees, construction crews, childcare workers, grocery workers, dental workers and many other occupations.

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Safe + Sound Week

Safe + Sound Week, August 10-16, 2020, brings focus to a year-round OSHA campaign to encourage every workplace to improve upon their safety and health program. Employers and workers can recognize their safety successes and set the stage for new ones during Safe + Sound Week.

DLI and OSHA Help Employers Form Safety Programs

Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries has tools and resources available for businesses that want to improve safety, from the management level to the work floor.

Management leadership means there is a commitment from the top to implementing a program and using it to drive continuous improvement in safety and health.

When management leadership is sincere and is supported by actions, workers know that safety and health are important to business success. This means that the steps they take to improve safety and health will be valued by the business.

Top management can demonstrate its commitment to safety in many different ways, including:

  • Developing and communicating a safety and health policy statement.
  • Providing the resources needed to implement and operate the program.
  • Factoring safety and health into operational planning and decisions.
  • Recognizing or rewarding safety and health contributions and achievements.
  • Leading by example, by practicing safe behaviors and making safety part of daily conversations.

OSHA provides resources for businesses to strengthen their safety programs, including a webinar: Three Core Elements of Effective Safety and Health Programs.

Workers are Key Players in Safety

Workers often know the most about potential hazards associated with their jobs. When they are involved in finding solutions, they are invested in the program. To maximize participation, workers must feel free of any fear of retaliation or discrimination (e.g., for reporting an injury or hazardous conditions). Trust is key in promoting a safe workplace.

Workers can participate in many ways, including:

  • Developing the initial program design.
  • Reporting incidents (including near misses) so they can be investigated.
  • Analyzing hazards associated with routine and nonroutine jobs, tasks, and processes.
  • Defining and documenting safe work practices.
  • Conducting site inspections and incident investigations.
  • Training current coworkers and new hires.
  • Evaluating program performance and identifying ways to improve it.
COVID-19 Safety is Part of the Puzzle

Safe + Sound Week also gives us the chance to highlight workplace safety and employer responsibilities in the time of COVID-19. In Washington State, our phases of reopening are evolving as conditions change. However, one constant is an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace.

The Safe Start Washington plan provides details for reopening of businesses.

Requirements for All Employers

The full details of the Safe Start Washington – Phased Reopening County-by-County plan is available here. The following is an outline of the requirements for employers under this plan. For all of the fine-point details, refer to the Safe Start document. In all phases – Employers are required to:

  • Provide (at no cost to employees) cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under the Department of Labor & Industries’ safety and health rules and guidance. Since June 8, all employees have been required to wear a cloth facial covering, consistent with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ COVID-19 workplace safety and health rules and guidance.
  • Cooperate with public health authorities in the investigation of cases, suspected cases, outbreaks, and suspected outbreaks of COVID-19; cooperate with the implementation of infection control measures, including but not limited to isolation and quarantine and environmental cleaning; and comply with all public health authority orders and directives.
  • Notify the local health jurisdiction within 24 hours if it is suspected that COVID-19 is spreading in the workplace, or if you 2 or more employees develop confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within a 14-day period.
  • Keep a safe and healthy facility in accordance with state and federal law, and comply with COVID-19 worksite-specific safety practices.
  • Educate workers in the language they understand best about coronavirus and how to prevent transmission, and the employer’s COVID-19 policies.
  • Maintain minimum six-foot separation between all employees (and customers) in all interactions at all times. When strict physical distancing is not feasible for a specific task, other prevention measures are required, such as use of barriers, minimizing staff or customers in narrow or enclosed areas, and staggering breaks and work shift starts.
  • Ensure frequent and adequate hand washing with adequate maintenance of supplies. Use disposable gloves where safe and applicable to prevent virus transmission on tools or other items that are shared.
  • Establish a housekeeping schedule that includes frequent cleaning and sanitizing with a particular emphasis on commonly touched surfaces
  • Screen employees for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 at the start of their shift. Make sure sick employees stay home or immediately go home if they feel or appear sick. Cordon off any areas where an employee with probable or confirmed COVID-19 illness worked, touched surfaces, etc. until the area and equipment is cleaned and sanitized. Follow the cleaning guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control to deep clean and sanitize.
  • Post a sign requiring customers to wear cloth facial coverings, and prominently display it at the entrance to the business so that it is immediately noticeable to all customers entering the store.
  • Follow requirements in Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-46 High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights.

Businesses are also required to implement any health and safety requirements developed specifically for their industry.

More Information for Workers

If you have questions or concerns about exposure to the Coronavirus on-the-job and how the workers’ compensation process will work, feel free to contact our firm for assistance.

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Boeing and Alaska Airlines AnnounceD Layoffs

Both Boeing and Alaska Airlines announced layoffs due, in large part, to the downturn in air travel as a result of the pandemic.

Boeing Layoffs

We wrote a prior article about the initial rounds of layoffs and incentivized early retirements at Boeing. Now, a new round of layoffs has been announced.

Boeing notified Washington State through its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) system of the upcoming layoffs. Effective October 2, 2020, it is reported that another 940 employees will face permanent layoff.

These additional layoffs coincided with the news that the FAA is finalizing its plan for the return of Boeing’s 737 MAX to service.

The Aerospace Machinists union, IAM 751, states that about 1/3 of their members that received WARN letters were reWARNs, meaning the member was already holding a WARN notice, effectively extending their layoff date to October 2nd from their earlier notice.

Alaska Airlines Layoffs

The Hill reported on the recent WARN notice from Alaska Airlines, excerpted below. Read the full post, here.

Alaska Airlines warned that almost 1,600 Washington state employees could be permanently laid off in the fall. The airline plans to begin letting a portion of its employees go, starting on Oct. 1, the day after the government’s Payroll Support Program terminates.

The expected layoffs in Washington state represent 20 percent of Alaska Airlines’s workforce in the area, including customer service agents, maintenance technicians and flight attendants. 

The Seattle Times also reported on the fact that Boeing and Alaska Airlines announced layoffs. Read the full report about Alaska Airlines, excerpted below, here.

Alaska avoided layoffs among its pilots when it offered incentives including half pay to take voluntary leave. More than 1,000 of Alaska’s 3,000 pilots took the incentives. The flight attendants were offered a voluntary-leave option that included health care but was unpaid.

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School Openings and Workers’ Compensation

We have received questions about teachers, school openings and workers’ compensation in light of the Coronavirus. Many teachers are worried about returning to the classroom. Workers’ compensation benefits may be available if teachers get sick in the classroom.

Reopening of Schools for 2020-2021 School Year

In Washington State, Governor Inslee is leaving the decision of when and how to reopen schools to the districts to decide. “We’ve got to give the districts some time to really to think about what works for them rather than dictating to them a one-size-fits-all solution,” Inslee said.

Governor Inslee’s July 9 Press Conference

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Juneau is recommending to the School Board that Seattle Public Schools start the 2020-21 school year remotely. They would follow the remote instruction model until the risk of significant transmission of COVID-19 has decreased enough to resume in-person instruction. The School Board will vote on Superintendent Juneau’s recommendation and an associated plan for Fall 2020 on August 12.

Superintendent Juneau recommends remote-learning instruction model.
WEA Demands Safety First

The Washington Education Association (WEA) has written that safety must come first in any plans to return to school in the fall. WEA is calling for the 2020-21 school year to begin with distance learning and virtual instruction.

Teachers, School Openings and Workers’ Compensation

Governor Inslee announced workers’ compensation coverage for quarantined health workers/first responders on March 5, 2020. The expanded coverage takes effect immediately and covers eligible workers already under quarantine. There is a presumption that, if these workers come down with COVID-19, their exposure was related to their work activities and that workers’ compensation benefits are due.

Teachers, as well as other workers that might be considered essential, do not have a presumption of coverage at this time. However, workers’ compensation claims have and should be filed if workers come down with COVID-19. The Department of Labor and Industries has acknowledged processing claims filed for COVID-19.

Workers’ compensation coverage can include medical testing, cover treatment expenses if a worker becomes ill or injured and provide time-loss payments for those who cannot work if they are sick or quarantined. A claim can also include benefits for permanent impairment or should death occur due to the virus.

Our suggestion to those that are diagnosed with COVID-19, and believe that they were exposed to the Coronavirus on the job, including teachers as well as other workers, is to file a claim with the Department of Labor and Industries. Workers can file a workers’ compensation claim up to two years after being exposed to a disease at work.

How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim

A claim can be:

  • Filed online
  • By phone: 1-877-561-FILE (3453)
  • Through your doctor’s office

As with any claim decision, the Department of Labor and Industries will issue an Order and Notice stating whether your claim is allowed or denied. You will have sixty (60) days within which to file a written protest or appeal if you disagree with the decision. A protest can be faxed, mailed or submitted to the Department online. If no protest or appeal is filed within 60 days from the date you received the order, the decision becomes final and binding on all parties.

If you have any questions, either before filing a claim or if a claim should be denied, please feel free to contact our firm for assistance. We offer a free case analysis, and would be happy to discuss the circumstances you are facing with you.

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First Safe Start Citation Issued

Fitness gym in Yakima County receives first Safe Start citation, fined nearly $10K for operating in violation of governor’s order.

The Department of Labor and Industries (DLI) has issued the first Safe Start citation against an employer for ignoring the Governor’s Safe Start order. DLI’s press release states that Bradshaw Development, Inc. , owner of Anytime Fitness Selah, was cited after DLI inspectors found the gym open for business on June 15th, when it should’ve been closed under the governor’s order.

The governor’s Safe Start proclamation prohibits most businesses from operating unless their county is in the appropriate phase of the statewide plan to reopen their economy and other aspects of daily living. Anytime Fitness Selah is in Yakima County, one of the state’s most active areas for coronavirus (COVID-19) infections. The county remains in Phase 1, the most restrictive tier of the four-phase state plan.

DLI Inspection

DLI inspected the Selah facility after receiving multiple complaints from the public and a referral from the Yakima Health District that Anytime Fitness was operating in violation of the governor’s proclamation. Before DLI conducted the inspection, state workers contacted the business multiple times; they informed the business about the order and directed it to close.

The state had received 13 complaints since May about Anytime Fitness Selah. People submitting complaints said the gym allowed customers to work out without requiring social distancing, was selling new memberships, and was posting on social media that it was open.

In an email to the governor’s office, a Yakima Health District official said numerous community members were reporting that the fitness center was open and that a staff member drove by and saw the building was packed with customers.

DLI notified Anytime Fitness Selah about the requirement to close to the public in a phone call, email, letter, and inspection. The citation is a “willful general” violation, meaning the employer knew about the safety requirements, but refused to follow them.

When inspectors went to the facility on June 15th, they saw several employees working, as well as customers entering and using the facility.

Exposing workers to COVID-19

Operating and serving customers during Phase 1 exposes Anytime Fitness Selah workers to an unacceptable risk of coronavirus exposure, according to the citation from DLI’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).

Along with being cited for the violation, the business faces a $9,639 fine. The business had until July 5 to close or 15 working days to appeal.

“Our primary focus is making sure employers do everything possible to prevent their workers from being exposed to the coronavirus,” said DLI Director Joel Sacks. “In this case, Anytime Fitness Selah was clearly aware it was operating in defiance of the governor’s order and putting employees at risk. They chose to stay open even after multiple contacts with DLI. And, it’s just not fair to businesses that are following the rules when others don’t.”

Businesses given several chances to comply

By the time DLI receives a Safe Start referral from the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) team, the business has already been contacted by phone and, when possible, by email to ensure they understand the Safe Start rules. In most cases, businesses comply.

If employers say they won’t follow the rules or DLI receives more complaints, the department sends a letter warning that they could be fined if they remain open. Inspectors may later drive by the businesses to make sure they’re complying. If they’re open, the case is referred to a DOSH investigator, who inspects the work site in person and may issue a citation.

Other Safe Start violations under review

Through June 26th, DLI staff working at the state EOC had contacted more than 400 businesses about complaints filed about their operations. The staff have given businesses guidance and answered questions when possible. The team still has approximately 1,300 businesses to contact about possible Safe Start violations.

People who believe a business is violating Safe Start rules can report it online.

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Closures Due to State Furloughs

The Department of Labor and Industries (DLI) is implementing closures due to State furloughs. Governor Jay Inslee announced the cancellation of some state employee raises and the need for furloughs on June 17, 2020.

A 3% pay raise previously approved by the legislature and set to take effect as of July 1st has been cancelled. The cancellation effects roughly 5,600 State employees. According to a press release, the raises will be canceled “for agency directors, Exempt Management Service and Washington Management Service employees, and all other exempt employees who earn more than $53,000 annually.”

Governor Inslee also directed all cabinet agencies in Washington State to take furlough days as a result of the state budget shortfall related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 40,000 State employees will be impacted by the furloughs.

There will be scheduled weekly furlough days in July and monthly furlough days through November. In addition, employees are encouraged to take additional voluntary furlough days. Starting this week, DLI will begin this process.

DLI Closures Due to State Furloughs

Many DLI employees will go on furlough one day per week through July 25 and will not answer phone calls or emails. DLI’s Tumwater and field office locations will be closed on the furlough days, as well.

The schedule for closure days during the month of July is as follows:

•Thurs., July 2 (we’ll also be closed Fri., July 3 to observe Independence Day).
•Fri., July 10.
•Fri., July 17.
•Fri., July 24.

There will also be closures due to State furloughs beyond the month of July. Many employees also must take a furlough day once a month from August to November. Specific dates have not been determined.

“We remain committed to keeping Washington safe and working, and our services vital to public health and safety – DOSH, Electrical Inspections, workers’ compensation benefits – remain operational during furlough days.“

Anne F. Soiza
L&I Assistant Director, 
WA State Department of Labor and Industries
More Information

Temporary changes to Department policy are already in place in response to the pandemic. Workers that are unable to work due to an injury should continue to receive benefits without significant delay or interruption from the closures due to State furloughs.

If you have questions about your workers’ compensation claim, feel free to contact our firm. We offer a free case analysis and stand ready to assist you when you need help.

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