Amid months of economic fallout and government-mandated restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington has ranked the best state to work in the U.S., according to nonprofit charitable organization Oxfam America.
Western Washington emerged as the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak in late February and has struggled to contain infections and deaths as the virus spread to all corners of the state. By early September, Washington had reported an estimated 79,900 cases and more than 2,000 deaths, with central and eastern Washington cities reporting the highest numbers of new COVID-19 infections. The unprecedented nationwide economic restrictions designed to curb the spread of the virus has fueled waves of layoffs, furloughs and firings. Some have been pressured to continue going into work without adequate protective equipment.
During this period, Washington implemented a variety of worker protections, including mandating paid sick and family leave, establishing requirements for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on the job and forcing employers to make accommodations for “high-risk” workers.
In August, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee set up a $40 million relief fund for undocumented workers who do not have access coronavirus-related federal stimulus assistance. California is the only other state to set up similar relief efforts for undocumented workers.
The Best States to Work During COVID-19 Index assesses worker conditions around the country and what kinds of support local governments are providing. The index ranks the state responses in three main areas: worker protections, health care policies and unemployment supports.
Although Washington ranked first among all U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, it was by no means perfect. “Washington does not offer protection against retaliation, or childcare for essential workers; it does not mandate waived cost sharing for COVID-19 treatment; and it does not offer a rent grace period,” the report notes.
Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us if you have a coronavirus-related questions, or if you need help with an L&I, workers’ comp, injury, or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.