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Washington Implements New COVID-19 Safety Rules for Farmworker Housing

On May 14, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health, in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, created new emergency COVID-19-related safety rules that farms must implement if they provide temporary farmworker housing. The rules went into effect on May 18, 2020.

The new rules impose five general requirements on Washington farms that provide temporary farmworker housing. Generally speaking, these farms must:

  1. Provide farmworker housing occupants with cloth face coverings;

  2. Frequently clean and disinfect housing surfaces;

  3. “Develop and implement a physical distancing plan . . . at housing sites, which includes at all cooking, eating, bathing, washing, recreational, and sleeping facilities”;

  4. Educate housing occupants on COVID-19 and post information regarding the facilities’ health and safety policies in a language understood by the occupants; and

  5. Implement a plan to identify and isolate confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases for housing occupants, and “submit revised temporary worker housing management plans to the state Department of Health that demonstrate how they will comply with the emergency rules” no later than May 28, 2020.

Businesses subject to the new emergency rules are permitted to request a temporary variance from compliance with these rules. To receive variance approval, a business must adopt measures that provide housing occupants with equivalent protections as those outlined in the rules.

It is presently unclear whether the state plans to inspect farmworker housing to ensure compliance with these new emergency rules. However, failure to submit a revised plan or to comply with the emergency rules could result in administrative action, including license suspension or fines. Thus, farms will want to consider immediately documenting all steps taken to comply with the safety rules to avoid penalties.

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.

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Bensy Benjamin Employment Attorney Ogletree
Associate

Bensy is an employment litigator in Ogletree Deakins’ Seattle office.  She represents employers in all aspects of employment litigation, including cases alleging Title VII discrimination; disability, age and military status discrimination; sexual harassment; retaliation for protected activity; wrongful discharge; wage and hour claims; FMLA violations; and breaches of non-competition agreements.  Bensy also represents companies in trade secret, unfair competition, breach of contract and other business-related litigation.

Bensy has substantial...

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Mark O. Morgan Employment Law Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart Seattle, WA
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Mark represents local and national employers in a variety of employment-related matters. Mark’s diverse practice includes resolving disputes that involve allegations of discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, Family Medical Leave Act and Equal Pay Opportunity Act issues, and other matters in state and federal courts.

Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Mark practiced at a full-service law firm in Seattle. In this capacity, his practice included commercial litigation, employment law, and bankruptcy.  Before joining his previous firm, Mark served as a judicial law clerk at Division One of the Washington State Court of Appeals for the Honorable James R. Verellen.

Mark is a proud Husky, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in 2012. Mark graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 2016, where he was the president of the Moot Court Board and competed in several competitions.

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Adam Pankratz, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
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Mr. Pankratz represents corporations and management in a myriad of employment-related and complex commercial matters, including litigation involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wage and hour, wrongful termination, ADA and FMLA leave issues, and other matters in state and federal courts and administrative agencies. Mr. Pankratz has experience successfully representing employers in executive termination, non-compete and unfair competition disputes.  Mr. Pankratz has extensive experience representing employers both locally and nationally on various employment...

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