Salem, OR — Oregon OSHA has fined Gold Miner Restaurant in Grants Pass $17,900 for violating two standards designed to protect employees from the coronavirus disease. In one of the infractions, the employer willfully continued to potentially expose workers to the virus, despite a public health order limiting the capacity of indoor dining to zero in an “extreme risk” county.
The citation resulted from an inspection launched in response to multiple complaints and a referral from Josephine County Public Health. The inspection documented the fact that Gold Miner Restaurant was willfully allowing indoor dining on or about Feb. 14 and continuing to do so afterward until March 12.
During that time, Josephine County was designated an “extreme risk” for transmission of the coronavirus disease. On March 12, the county’s risk level was lowered from “extreme” to “high.” During the inspection, the restaurant’s owner, Nancie Bowers, said she was aware that allowing indoor dining during the extreme risk period went against workplace health requirements.
Using his discretionary authority under state law, Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood imposed a $17,800 penalty for the willful violation. That is twice the minimum penalty for such a violation. The decision reflects the need to ensure a more appropriate deterrent effect where employers insist on disregarding health and safety standards.
Such willful behavior puts employees at risk and enables the employer to achieve a competitive advantage over businesses that comply with the requirements.
“Most employers continue to comply with workplace health and safety standards that are specifically designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Yet, some have insisted on a different path, one that potentially puts workers at risk,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “In those cases, we will continue to seek accountability through our enforcement work.”
Altogether, Oregon OSHA cited two violations of the division’s temporary rule to address COVID-19 risks in the workplace:
- In allowing indoor dining, Gold Miner Restaurant knowingly chose to disregard capacity limitations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for such establishments in a county designated as extreme risk. The willful violation carried a discretionary penalty of $17,800.
- The employer failed to follow OHA requirements to ensure that all workers inside the establishment wore a source control device, such as a mask, face covering, or face shield. It was a serious violation, carrying a $100 penalty.
Ongoing refusals to correct violations and come into compliance with workplace health and safety standards can lead to additional higher penalties. Meanwhile, if an Oregon OSHA inspection documents violations while a county is at extreme risk, but the county’s risk level drops before the citation is issued, the citation will still be issued. The change in risk levels may affect how the violation needs to be corrected, but not whether it is cited.
Employers have 30 days to appeal citations.