Inslee extends COVID-19 job protections for high-risk workers

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has extended job protections for “high-risk” employees working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The high-risk workers – people over 65, people of any age who have certain chronic underlying health conditions and those who “might be at increased risk” from COVID-19 – must receive accommodation by their employers through the duration of the ongoing state of emergency Inslee declared in February, according to a new proclamation.

The protections, originally signed into law on April 14 and extended on June 9, were set to expire on Aug. 1.

The most recent extension is in reaction to new Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance regarding people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

A guidance memo accompanying Inslee’s new proclamation clarifies the steps employers may take to verify the medical conditions of workers who might be at increased risk from coronavirus.

Inslee’s proclamation provides the following protections for high-risk workers:

  1. If a high-risk worker requests accommodation, the employer must exhaust all options to create alternative work arrangements, including telework, alternative or remote work locations, reassignment, and social distancing measures.
  2. If an alternative work arrangement is not feasible, an employer can’t prevent the worker from using available leave or unemployment insurance.
  3. If a worker’s paid time off runs out while they are on leave, an employer must maintain all health insurance benefits until the worker is eligible to return to work.
  4. Employers can’t punish workers for exercising their rights under the this proclamation in a way that would result in them being permanently replaced.

Emery Reddy provides advice and consultation for L&I, workers’ comp and employment law claims. Call us to find out your legal options.

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