June 29, 2022

Volume XII, Number 180

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Washington Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions

Following the lead of many other states, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has announced that the state is moving into a less restrictive phase of the COVID-19 response.

New Mask-Free Zones

Inslee has amended his “Washington Ready” Proclamation (20-25.18) to immediately allow all outdoor workers to go mask-free. Fully vaccinated workers can go without masks indoors if they are in areas where no customers, volunteers, visitors, or non-employees are present.

Beginning March 21, 2022, the state will no longer mandate face coverings indoors in businesses, grocery stores, retail establishments, restaurants, bars, gyms, recreational centers, indoor athletic facilities, schools, childcare facilities, libraries, or houses of worship. However, private businesses can still choose to require employees, customers, or residents to wear face coverings.

The Secretary of Health also amended its statewide facemask order (Order 20-03.7) to immediately lift the mask requirement for outdoor events or gatherings attended by at least 500 people.

Places Where Masking Must Continue

Even after March 21, 2022, the general mask requirement will continue in healthcare settings (such as hospitals, outpatient facilities, and dental offices), long-term care settings, public transit, taxis, rideshare vehicles, and correctional facilities. Federal law still requires face coverings in certain settings, such as public transportation and school buses.

Unvaccinated workers also must continue to wear masks indoors at jobsites until further notice.

Right to Mask

As an added measure, Inslee amended Proclamation 21.08-1 (Safe Workers) to protect employees from discipline for choosing to wear a face covering at work. This is consistent with a similar law, RCW 49.17.485(2), passed in 2021, which protects a worker’s right to wear a face covering and other personal protective equipment during a public health emergency.

Vaccination Verifications

Beginning March 1, 2022, statewide vaccine verification for large events will no longer be required. No other changes to state vaccination rules have been announced.

King County (which includes Seattle) announced that, beginning March 1, its restaurants, bars, theaters, and gyms will no longer be required to check the vaccination status of their patrons. Businesses will be free to impose their own vaccination requirements if they choose, but the countywide requirement will disappear. The same is true for outdoor events in King County with more than 500 people, like concerts and sporting events.

All violations of state Proclamations are subject to criminal penalties (as is the case with all of the governor’s recent Proclamations).

Reopening orders contain extensive requirements creating compliance issues that can vary significantly depending on the specific state or local jurisdiction.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 55
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About this Author

Sherry Talton Employment Attorney Seattle
Of Counsel

Sherry L. Talton is Of Counsel in the Seattle, Washington, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She advises and represents employers in every stage of disputes, from risk management to trial and appeal.

Ms. Talton has a broad base of litigation, trial, and appellate experience in numerous state and federal courts across the nation. She has assisted employers to protect their trade secrets, combat wrongful competition, comply with wage and hour laws, enforce arbitration agreements and other employment contract provisions, and implement best recruiting, hiring, and...

206-626-6409
Jonathan Minear, Employers Attorney, Wage and Hour Compliance Lawyer, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Seattle
Associate

Jonathan M. Minear is an Associate in the Seattle, Washington, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He focuses his practice on litigating workplace law matters and assisting employers with preventive advice and counsel.

Mr. Minear represents employers in state and federal courts in a broad range of matters, including harassment, discrimination, retaliation, employment torts, breach of contract, wage and hour compliance, and wrongful termination claims. He also appears before administrative agencies, such as the Equal Employment...

206-626-6432
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