Washington’s workers’ comp division makes mistakes – don’t be afraid to appeal L&I decisions

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), which has been monitoring whether businesses are following coronavirus guidelines to keep workers safe, is also in charge of accepting or rejecting claims filed on behalf of injured or ill workers to the state’s workers’ compensation program. In both of these roles, L&I’s rulings are not set in stone because there’s a chance they did not make a strong enough case, or the truth of the matter was inadvertently lost in the bureaucratic review process.

That may have been the case on November 20, when L&I published a list of nine businesses that have been cited for violating mask requirements outlined in Washington’s Covid-19 guidelines.

Red Carpet Carwash, one of the businesses cited, appealed the $900 fine L&I handed down on May 5 for an alleged mask violation.

The Carwash’s owner Keith Beck told the news site, MyClallumCounty.com, that his business was not at fault.

“We had a customer in here having her car detailed, she was in our lounge, which is an employee lounge, and it says ’employee lounge’. One of the guys walk through without a mask on to go to the bathroom and she turned us in,” he said.

When he requested that someone from L&I come do a walk-through and tell him how to be compliant, Beck said he was told by L&I that the drive was too far. Red Carpet Carwash is located in the city of Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula in Clallum County.

Another L&I representative reviewed the complaint and said that if Red Carpet made a few minor changes, the fine would be downgraded to a warning, Beck said. But five months after making the requested changes, the $900 fine arrived in the mail.

Beck appealed the decision, and was scheduled to appeal his case by telephone on December 9. The November 20 press release publicizing Red Carpet’s fine thus came as a shock to the owner.

This case highlights how due process can get lost in the bureaucratic maze of the L&I decision-making process. Injured employees who file workers’ comp claims are sometimes denied for reasons that have nothing to do with the validity of their case.

Emery Reddy is committed to getting our clients the most out of their L&I claims. Call us if your claim has been denied, or if you have another employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

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