Labor & Industries doesn’t have emergency authority to fine businesses, Ericksen says

  • State agency plans $10,000 fines for businesses that flout governor’s edicts
  • Legislature never gave agency authority to adopt rule
  • Punishment sends wrong message to struggling businesses, people of Washington


To read Sen. Ericksen’s letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, click here.

OLYMPIA – A new effort by the Inslee Administration to prosecute businesses that reopen without state permission is an unconscionable power grab not authorized by state law, says Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Ericksen is calling for the immediate repeal of an “emergency rule” adopted this week by the state Department of Labor and Industries. The rule allows the agency to levy fines of up to $10,000 for businesses that reopen before the governor’s office gives the go-ahead. The rule transforms L&I, an agency charged with enforcing workplace safety regulations, into an agency charged with enforcing the governor’s coronavirus shutdown orders.

“I think the people of Washington have been punished enough by this COVID-19 shutdown,” Ericksen said. “They don’t need the governor’s office to punish them further. Business owners and their workers are in a desperate situation. The case for continued restrictions gets weaker by the day, and public support is faltering because state government has dropped the ball on getting help to the people who need it. We shouldn’t make this situation worse by punishing the victims.”

In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday, Ericksen observes that the Department of Labor and Industries has never been granted the authority to adopt the emergency rule. Under the Washington constitution, the Washington Legislature must delegate authority before state agencies can adopt regulations. State law provides a laundry list of circumstances under which L&I can issue emergency rules. Supporting a governor’s proclamation of emergency is not one of them.

In his letter, Ericksen notes that none of the specific statutes cited by L&I give the agency the authority to adopt the rule.

Ericksen has called for a special session to deal with emerging financial problems associated with the COVID-19 shutdown. “If Gov. Inslee believes these fines are such a good idea, he should submit the idea to the Legislature, so that it can make the final decision,” Ericksen said.