The state of Washington has enacted legislation (House Bill 1097) that amends existing health and safety law. House Bill 1097 takes effect on July 25, 2021.
The state of Washington requires employers to comply with general safety standards, including providing each employee with a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards. Employers that violate the law may be subject to penalties.
House Bill 1097:
House Bill 1097 adds additional employee protections, offers employers health and safety grants during a public emergency, and establishes a timeframe for employers to contest alleged health and safety violations.
Contesting a Violation:
An employer may contest an alleged health and safety violation within 10 working days by submitting an application to the superior court in the county in which the alleged violation occurred.
If the state believes an employer violated a safety order that immediately restrains a practice or policy in the workplace, the state will notify the employer of such violation and of the penalty to be assessed. The employer will have 15 workdays from receipt of the notification to appeal.
During a state of emergency, the state will adopt a safety grant program to provide eligible employers with one-time grants to buy equipment, gear, or make capital improvements to meet any new safety and health requirements required before they can resume business operations. To be eligible, the purchase may not be covered by another grant, government program, or insurance contract and an employer must pay premiums to the state accident fund, not be self-insured, and have 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.
Expanded Employee Protections:
Under House Bill 1097, employers cannot take any action that would deter a reasonable employee from exercising their rights under the law. In addition, any employee who believes that they've been discharged or otherwise discriminated against in violation of the law may file a discrimination complaint with the state within 90 days. Previously, employees had 30 days to file such a complaint.
Washington employers should update their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with House Bill 1097. Please contact your dedicated service professional with any questions.